COLUMBUS – The Columbus Crew left it very late, but got the goal they needed just before full time to take a dramatic 1-0 win over Chivas USA on Wednesday, jumping back into the Eastern Conference playoff picture.
Justin Meram, an 80th-minute substitute, played the hero, firing home from six yards in the 89th minute.
The winning play started with Tony Tchani, another second-half substitute, feeding Federico Higuain down the left side. Higuain’s cross was touched onto goal by teammate Jairo Arrieta, but Dan Kennedy made the save.
However, the rebound went back to Arrieta who, while prone, still managed to head backward into the path of an onrushing Meram for the attacker’s fourth goal of the season.
Andy Gruenebaum then preserved the win with a save of Oswaldo Minda in the 92nd minute.
The excitement was a far cry from a the somewhat sloppy first half, which saw Gruenebaum make a series of quality saves to keep the home side in it. Kennedy did his part as well, adding to a lengthy highlight reel. He was also helped by the post, which kept out Julius James’ powerful header late in the first after a Higuain set piece.
Both teams tightened up in the second half, closing down space as Chivas slowly morphed from a 4-3-3 to a 4-5-1. When the dangerous duo of Nick LaBrocca and Ryan Smith were subbed out, that signaled the Rojiblancos’ intent to play for the point.
Crew manager Robert Warzycha, on the other hand, went all-in for the full three points, and eventually got the reward he was looking for.
The Crew (13-10-6, 45) broke a two-game losing streak and moved into fifth-place in the Eastern Conference and the final playoff spot, a point ahead of D.C. United and a point back of fourth-place Houston. The Crew play at Chicago on Saturday.
Chivas (7-14-7) appeared set to end a three-game losing streak but instead fell to 0-6-2 in the past eight games. They’ll play at D.C. United on Sunday
MLSsoccer.com Men of the Match
|Rank||Player||What We Saw|
|1||Andy Gruenebaum||Did what he's been doing all year, producing a number of spectacular saves to keep his side in position to grab a result.|
|2||Tony Tchani||Changed where the game was played by imposing his physicality on the Chivas midfield. How long 'til he's finally a starter?|
|3||Dan Kennedy||Not a lot more you can ask from your 'keeper. Every player on Chivas owes him an apology to one degree or another.|