By JASON MITCHELL
It was three years and seven matches in the making, but thanks to a pair of goals and stingy defense the Columbus Crew finally beat the Seattle Sounders.
Justin Meram's header in the 16th minute gave the Crew the only goal they would need Wednesday night, but Emelio Renteria's stunning one-touch volley from 30 yards out in the 76th minute secured the victory.
Meram beat defender Adam Johansson on the back post, and easily redirected Dilly Duka's cross past a helpless Bryan Meredith. It was Meram's third goal in three matches.
Perhaps mindful of the 6-2 drubbing they received in Seattle last August, the Crew (4-4-3) came out in a defensive formation, looking content to hope for a point. After scoring their early goal against the run of play, the Crew withdrew even further.
Seattle (7-2-3) sent attackers in waves throughout the first half, earning six corners in the process, but continually found themselves facing a box stuffed with four or five defenders. Seattle's attack also looked sluggish in the final third for much of the first 45 minutes, and several half-chances fizzled away with errant and slow passing.
Brad Evans had a great look from the top of the box in first-half stoppage time, but his badly hit strike rolled harmlessly to the right of the frame. Moments later Alvaro Fernandez missed a golden opportunity for the equalizer from just six yards out, sailing his header wide right.
Columbus faced a refreshed and crisper Seattle attack after the break. The Sounders pushed hard for the equalizer for the first fifteen minutes of the second half and looked to have finally found the back of the net in the 51st minute, but goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum made a beautiful reflex save on Fredy Montero's skipping shot from just inside the penalty spot. Gruenebaum also made a solid save on a Montero shot from distance minutes later.
In a battle of two tired, battered sides, Columbus held on for the full three points despite being outshot 21-5 and badly losing the possession battle. The two goals were their only two shots on target for the evening.
Columbus entered riotous CenturyLink Field with just one win and two goals in five road games this season, and were 0-3-3 against the Sounders since Seattle entered the league in 2009. The Crew had, however, managed five points from their last three matches after a difficult start to the season.
After winning five straight, the Sounders have now lost two of three and are on the road for seven of their next nine league matches.
Both sides are back in action Saturday night, as the Sounders travel down the coast to face Chivas USA (4-6-1), and Columbus returns home with a chance to gain points on the Chicago Fire (4-3-3).
Here are the match highlights:
What did you think of the match? Surprised the Crew were able to win in Seattle? Still think the Sounders are one of the teams to beat in MLS?
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