COLUMBUS, Ohio – When the Columbus Crew traded for midfielder Tony Tchani nearly a year ago, they weren't thinking they had acquired a goalscorer.
Until this week.
Tchani is making a strong case to stay in the Crew starting lineup after scoring in his second straight game -- the goal turned out to be the game-winner -- to lead Columbus to a 2-0 victory over Real Salt Lake on Saturday night.
He prefers his latest goal, set up by forward Emilio Rentería in the 16th minute, over his first score as a member of the Crew on June 23 in Chicago, where they lost 2-1.
“It’s a great feeling because the first one wasn’t a great feeling because we lost the game,” Tchani said after the match.
Tchani, who was spent his rookie season in 2010 with New York, was dealt to Toronto FC early last season before being acquired by the Crew for Leandre Griffit and Andy Iro, neither of whom is in the league today. But last year Tchani was limited to a single postseason appearance because of a knee surgery.
Ironically, both of Tchani’s goals prior to the season came against Columbus, one for the Red Bulls and one for Toronto. Now he's on their side.
“I’m not trying to prove anything to anybody,” Tchani said. “I’m just trying to help my teammates, trying to help the coaches make good decisions.”
He made one of his own by continuing his sprint toward goal after Rentería slipped on the left side of the penalty area just after the quarter-hour mark at Crew Stadium. Rentería got up and cut the ball back to Tchani, who slotted the ball from 12 yards.
“I just kept following the play because Emilio keeps fighting," Tchani said. "I never gave up."
It was typical of his play since Crew manager Robert Warzycha moved him from outside midfielder to the center earlier this season.
“[Tchani] is really good on the ball,” said Eddie Gaven, who added the insurance tally in the 44th minute. “He makes good passes. As you can see tonight, he can also finish. He’s making those late runs in the box which are so dangerous for other teams to defend.”
The Crew (6-5-4) shut down RSL, who had to endure a lack of electricity in their team hotel for 24 hours after a storm ripped through Columbus on Friday afternoon.
There was no power at Crew Stadium either until Saturday afternoon and kickoff was delayed an hour.
Defender Josh Williams, who registered his first career point by assisting on Gaven’s fourth goal of the season, said RSL (10-6-2) noticeably sagged the final 45 minutes.
“You could tell halfway through they kind of shut it down,” he said. “They were a little frustrated. We came out with more energy and stuck it to them in the second half.”