By KEVIN KOCZWARA
Federico Higuaín’s magic touch helped the Columbus Crew (10-14-5, 35 pts.) continue to keep their playoff hopes alive with two assists in the Crew’s 2-1 comeback win over the Montreal Impact (13-8-6, 45 pts.) at the Stade Saputo on Saturday.
The Impact, who ceded the top-spot in the Eastern Conference to the New York Red Bulls with the loss, dominated much of the game and created plenty of chances, but it took their eighth corner of the match in the 24th minute for Montreal to grab the lead.
Patrice Bernier received the short corner from the right side of the Crew’s penalty area and whipped a cross towards the back post. Matteo Ferrari who headed the ball back across goal to Marco Di Vaio, and the Italian did what he does best and finished the chance. The goal was Di Vaio’s league-leading 18th of the season and looked like it would be the opening Montreal needed to open the flood gates and continue the team’s winning ways.
Columbus was able to hold on until the second half, when Higuaín showed his class and set-up the Crew’s unlikely comeback.
Columbus got the equalizer in the 66th minute from an unlikely goalscorer, Chad Marshall. Higuaín stepped up to a free kick and whipped the ball into the Montreal penalty area and Marshall outjumped everyone to hit a strong header past Impact goalkeeper Troy Perkins.
Higuaín was again the creator in the 79th minute when he picked up a loose ball in the midfield and found space on the outside of the Impact’s defense before shipping a pass with the outside of his right foot towards a streaking Dominic Oduro in the Montreal penalty area. Oduro did well to finish the chance with Perkins barreling down on him. The goal was Oduro’s 10th of the season, one more than Higuaín for the team lead.
Montreal was unable to get the goal they needed to level the score in the final minutes of the game as Columbus held strong.
The win pulled Columbus within four points of the Chicago Fire and Philadelphia Union for the fifth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Crew will host Chicago next Saturday with a chance to pull closer to a playoff spot.
The loss meant that the Impact fell to second, three points behind New York, but Montreal has two games in hand on the Red Bulls. Montreal has a tough week ahead with only a few days before heading to San Jose on Wednesday to play the Earthquakes before heading home to play Vancouver on Saturday.
Here are the match highlights: