SEATTLE — Justin Meram scored at the death in second half stoppage time to give the Columbus Crew a come-from-behind 2-1 win over a 10-man Seattle Sounders team on Saturday and continue their best start in franchise history.
Meram’s 94th minute strike came amidst some confusion as the Crew took a short corner with time running out. Federico Higuain found Meram unmarked at the top of the penalty area and he bured his shot from about 18 yards inside the far post. The Sounders, who played the final 30 minutes down a man, had cleared a ball off the line moments earlier and seemed poised to salvage a point.
The loss is the Sounders’ second straight at home and snapped a 51-match unbeaten run when they score the first goal.
Seattle opened the scoring in the 23rd minute with Kenny Cooper’s first goal in rave green. After Lamar Neagle intercepted a pass in the Sounders’ defensive end, he pushed it forward to Obafemi Martins who made a leaping flick that put Cooper into space behind the defense. Cooper was then off to the races with Neagle trailing to create a 2-on-1. Cooper chose to take it himself and rifled his shot inside the far post.
It was the only shot Crew goalkeeper Steve Clark was unable to stop in a first half that saw him make several impressive saves.
Although the Crew opened the match maintaining much of the possession, the Sounders were repeatedly able to get out on counter-attacks and create chances with high pressure.
Neagle, in particular, could have had a hat trick in the opening 45 minutes if not for Clark’s efforts. Clark made a diving stop of a Neagle header at the near post in the 19th minute. A minute later, Neagle got behind the defense on a breakaway, but his shot from about 20 yards out was pushed over the crossbar. Neagle had another good look in the 39th minute, this time lining up a shot from about 10 yards out but Clark again made a diving stop.
Clark’s efforts were nearly rewarded late in the half when the Crew got a wonderful chance against the run of play. Hector Jimenez started the sequence with an overhead pass to Higuain, who eluded Sounders defender Djimi Traore and chipped goalkeeper Stefan Frei from about 10 yards out. But Higuain’s shot struck the crossbar and Bernardo Anor’s header attempt off the rebound went wide of an open net.
The match took a dramatic turn in the 57th minute. First, the Sounders had a golden opportunity to expand their lead when Martins ran down a ball at the end line and put in a cross that wasn’t quite cleared. Alonso was able to hit a diving header in the scramble, but it was right at Clark.
Just a minute later, Crew forward Dominic Oduro was able to get behind the Sounders defense and draw a penalty from Traore, who was also shown a red card for his foul on the speedy striker. Higuain blasted the subsequent penalty into the back of the net to level the score. It was Higuain’s third goal in as many matches.
At that point, it was Frei’s turn to come up big for his team. After seeing his 224-minute shutout streak ended, Frei made several key stops to keep the Sounders in the match. But he was caught flat-footed on the deciding strike.
The Crew improved to 3-0-0 for the first time in franchise history, and will host Toronto FC next Saturday, while the Sounders fell to 2-2-0 and will face their Cascadia rivals, the Portland Timbers, on the road next Saturday.
MLSsoccer.com Men of the Match
|Rank||Player||What We Saw|
|1||Federico Higuain||Continued his outstanding start to the 2014 season with a goal and assist. Bolstered his early MVP campaign on the night|
|2||Justin Meram||How can an 89th minute substitute make an impression? Score the winner on the final kick, with a terrific strike|
|3||Osvaldo Alonso||Kept Seattle steady after they lost Traore, and his box-to-box game was very good against the Crew|