The Columbus Crew only needed a draw against the Philadelphia Union Sunday to clinch their first home playoff game since 2010. It got more than that, with Bernardo Anor scoring a late winner to secure a 2-1 victory against Philadelphia in both club’s regular-season finale.
The win was Columbus's third in a row, taking the club to 52 points (14-10-10) overall for the season and securing at the very least the fourth and possibly the third seed in the Eastern Conference, while the Union sputtered to a 42-point finish (10-12-12), notching only one win in its final seven matches.
The Crew will be the third seed in the East with any other result than a Sporting Kansas City win when they play the New York Red Bulls Sunday night (8:30 pm ET; ESPN2 in the US, TSN2 in Canada).
Columbus came flying out of the gate, pushing the ball quickly into the Philadelphia end on a number of breaks. The pressure came to a head in 14th minute, when the Crew worked a counter to perfection for the opening tally.
Columbus exploited Philadelphia's aggressive high line when Wil Trapp played Ben Speas into space with only a pair of Philadelphia defenders and Jairo Arrieta in front of him. Speas’s pass to Arrieta created a one-on-one break, and the Costa Rican calmly dribbled around Zac MacMath to slide home the opener.
With playoffs already clinched and an early lead in the bag, the Crew seemed happy to maintain the 1-0 scoreline for the remainder of the half and nearly suffered for their lack of attacking interest.
Columbus goalkeeper Steve Clark was required to maintain the lead multiple times, and the Union found success in pressing the Crew high up the field. The result was a largely disjointed ending to the half, with each team relying on long balls and finding extended possession lacking.
After a scoreless opening 18 minutes of the second half, Columbus Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter seemed content to hang onto the lead and rest some Crew legs in preparation of the possibility of a midweek playoff match.
The Crew brought in youngster Romain Gall for Arrieta after the Costa Rican took a slight knock in the 63rd minute and let leading goal and assist man Ethan Finlay rest for the final 25 minutes in favor of defender Eric Gehrig.
The Union found an equalizer when midfielder Zach Pfeffer beat Clark in the 85th minute, but substitute Anor stole the win, not without some controversy, for the Crew when a loose ball bounced to his feet in the 90th minute.
Anor appeared to be offside, but he poked the ball in just inches from the goal line to earn the win for the Crew and hand the Union another devastating defeat to end their season.
MLSsoccer.com Men of the Match
|Rank||Player||What We Saw|
|1||Steve Clark||Controlled his area for 90 minutes and was unlucky to see Pfeffer's shot slip through his legs.|
|2||Tony Tchani||Thierry Henry may have praised Wil Trapp, but when the game got sloppy, Tchani took control.|
|3||Zach Pfeffer||Does he deserve this spot? Probably not, but consider this a call for more PT in 2015.|