COLUMBUS – Sometimes all you need is a lucky bounce. That was the case on Saturday when Columbus Crew SC claimed all three points against the Philadelphia Union via a Justin Meram goal in the second half. Crew SC won 1-0.
Sixty-five minutes passed and eight Columbus Crew SC shots had been taken before that lucky bounce came.
Meram sprinted down the right side before firing a spinning ball that ricocheted off Union defender Joshua Yaro and found the back of the net. The Black & Gold would not look back, eventually win the match 1-0. Artur provided Meram the ball and was credited with an assist on the play.
The goal was Meram’s ninth of the season, which set a new career high for the midfielder. In a match that also yielded his 175th appearance as a member of Crew SC, Meram tied Ola Kamara and Federico Higuain for the team lead in goals on the season. The goal was the 33rd of J9’s career.
The Columbus defense stifled Philadelphia’s attack. Crew SC goalkeeper Zack Steffen did not have to face a shot on goal in the clean-sheet victory. Crew SC Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter elected to employ a 3-4-2-1 formation for the fifth time this season.
The Black & Gold tallied 11 total shots compared to the Union’s three. Crew SC narrowly won the possession battle with a margin of 50.4 percent and passed more accurately than Philadelphia by a deficit of 85.2 percent to 83.3 percent
The match was the first leg of a home-and-home series with the Union that will close on Wednesday in Philadelphia. Both squads were without their leading goal scorers as Crew S's Higuain sat with a right knee sprain and Union forward C.J. Sapong was out with a right ankle sprain.
The 1-0 outcome had great significance regarding the MLS Eastern Conference standings for Columbus (10-10-1, 31 points), who catapulted themselves above the line and into playoff position. Philadelphia (6-9-5, 23 points), who entered the match in ninth place, failed to gain ground on the teams above them.
Venue: MAPFRE Stadium
Referee: Silviu Petrescu
Assistants: Philippe Briere, Eric Boria
Fourth Official: Fotis Bazakos
Weather: Partly cloudy
65’ – CLB – Justin Meram (Artur)
PHI – Jack Elliott (Caution) 68’
Columbus Crew SC: Zack Steffen; Lalas Abubakar, Alex Crognale, Jonathan Mensah; Jukka Raitala, Wil Trapp ©, Artur, Harrison Afful (Hector Jimenez 46’); Justin Meram (Cristian Martinez 75’), Kekuta Manneh; Ola Kamara (Adam Jahn 86’)
Substitutes not used: Brad Stuver, Nicolai Naess, Josh Williams, Ethan Finlay
Philadelphia Union: John McCarthy; Giliano Wijnaldum (Fabinho 75’), Jack Elliott, Joshua Yaro, Raymon Gaddis; Haris Medunjanin ©, Alejandro Bedoya; Ilsinho (Charlie Davies 69’), Adam Najem, Marcus Epps (Warren Creavalle 81’); Jay Simpson
Substitutes not used: Jake McGuire, Oguchi Onyewu, Keegan Rosenberry, Brian Carroll
Making it official
Crew SC midfielder Cristian Martinez made his 2017 MLS debut on Saturday evening when he entered the match as a substitution for Meram in the 75th minute. Martinez did see previous action this past Monday in an International Friendly against Eintracht Frankfurt, but his first league appearance of the year came Saturday night. Martinez made his career debut last season against the Union.
A short, storied history
The win snapped a three game losing streak for Crew SC against the younger Philadelphia club. While the two franchises have only met 19 times in MLS history, their games have been hotly contested. Columbus owns a record of 11-7-1 against the Union.
More work ahead
The 1-0 win at MAPFRE Stadium was the first of what will be a tough stretch for the Black & Gold. Crew SC will play two more matches over the next seven days.
Columbus Crew SC will travel to Philadelphia on Wednesday, July 26 to play the Union once again at 7:30 p.m. ET before traveling west to face Real Salt Lake on Saturday, July 29 at 8:00 p.m. ET on the road. The Black & Gold return home on Saturday, August 12 to battle the Chicago Fire at 7:30 p.m. ET at MAPFRE Stadium in Columbus.