For the first time since their 3-0-0 beginning to the season, the Columbus Crew looked like an MLS power Saturday night, throttling red-hot visitors LA Galaxy, 4-1.
The win brought the Crew (7-8-9) back into the playoff picture in the Eastern Conference, while it marked just the second loss in 14 matches for the 9-5-7 Galaxy.
Proceedings began with civility, as the Crew recognized Landon Donovan for his USMNT and club accomplishments. But when the ceremony was over and the pictures were taken, the match erupted.
Both teams emphasized attack from the first minute. While Columbus and LA usually enjoy possession and passing, the match quickly became a track meet dominated by long passes and through balls.
The Galaxy seemed to have the better of the chances at the beginning half, but Crew goalkeeper Steve Clark made several key saves to deny what seemed an inevitable first goal from LA.
After some sustained Galaxy pressure, Crew midfielder Justin Meram opened scoring with a 23rd-minute golazo. After gathering a pass from Tony Tchani near the top of the penalty box, Meram spun in a cirlce to avoid two Galaxy defenders and unleashed a curling blast into the top corner past Galaxy keeper Jaime Penedo.
The Crew added another in the 33rd minute, with Meram again at the heart of the action. Allowed way too much space by the Galaxy defense in the midfield, he feigned a shot as he neared the top of the box and played a perfectly weighted through ball to a slashing Ethan Finlay, whose shot off the underside of the crossbar left Penedo no chance.
The Galaxy got back into the game shortly after the break when Dan Gargan’s cross from the right wing landed perfectly on the foot of Gyasi Zardes. The 22-year-old striker showed great technique to side volley the cross first time low into the corner past a diving Clark.
As the Galaxy pressed for an equalizer, they became exposed on the counter. Columbus made LA pay with late goals from Ben Speas and Giancarlo Gonzalez, capping the highest scoring game for the Crew this season.
MLSsoccer.com Men of the Match
|Rank||Player||What We Saw|
|1||Justin Meram||Heavily involved in both first half goals. On the first he finished supurbly into the top corner, and followed it up with a slick pass to Finlay for the Crew's second.|
|2||Tony Tchani||Arguably the Cameroonian's best game of the season. Did everything right defensively in his holding midfield role but also sprung nearly every Crew attack with solid possession and great distribution.|
|3||Giancarlo Gonzalez||Rock-solid defensive effort from the Costa Rican. Huge display on a night when the Crew badly needed a result. Stepped up to the challenge.|