Photo by Jane Gershovich/JaneG. Photography
By JASON MITCHELL
SEATTLE – The Columbus Crew came into Saturday’s match riding the first 2-0 start in franchise history. But a road game against the Seattle Sounders promised to provide a much stiffer test than the Philadelphia Union at home or D.C. United on the road.
With the match tied 1-1 in the 94th and final minute of stoppage time, 89th-minute substitute Justin Meram stepped into a Federico Higuain corner kick and buried a 17-yard shot into the far corner of the net for the 2-1 win.
“This is my coaching tip,” quipped Crew head coach Gregg Berhalter after the match. “Before he was going in, I told him to score a goal.”
The goal stunned the CenturyLink crowd of 38,469 and gave a rejuvenated franchise a 3-0 start to the 2014 season.
The Sounders played the final 36 minutes with 10 men.
Higuain tied the match on a 58th minute penalty kick that followed the ejection of defender Djimi Traore. Referee Allen Chapman awarded the penalty and issued Traore the straight red card after the defender took down Dominic Oduro in the penalty area.
Higuain buried the ensuing penalty kick into the top-right corner for his third goal of the season.
The Sounders (2-2-0) opened the scoring in a wide-open first half that saw the Crew frequently on their heels and fortunate not to be down more than 1-0 at the break.
In the 22nd minute, Obafemi Martins collected a bad midfield turnover and flicked Kenny Cooper into acres of space. Cooper charged into the penalty area and buried a shot into the far netting for the 1-0 lead and his first goal as a Sounder.
“We did what we thought we’d be able to do,” said Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid. “We knew that they like to spread the field and they spread their players on the field. When you can intercept passes you can get at them pretty quickly and the flank areas are open because their outside backs are up so high, and obviously we got the goal off that kind of play.”
Lamar Neagle tested Steve Clark repeatedly in the first half, but the goalkeeper kept his team in the match with save after save. At one point Clark denied Neagle three times between the 19th and 21st minutes.
But Clark’s biggest save of all probably came in the 39th minute, when he charged to the top of the 6-yard box and dove to deflect a left-footed Neagle shot from 12 yards out.
“I was just trying to make myself big, see the ball,” Clark said. “I’m quite a good shot-stopper, so that played to my strengths. It was nice to make the save.”
“He’s a fighter,” said Berhalter about his goalkeeper. “He’s a guy that relishes these chances. He came up big.”
Berhalter also suggested a difficult first half wasn’t necessarily a surprise.
“We wanted to try to play,” said the first-year head coach. “We wanted to play our game, and we knew it was going to be tough.”
The Crew were much more balanced in the second half, controlling possession, nearly finding the back of the net on multiple occasions, and putting a stop to a seemingly endless stream of first-half Seattle counters.
Neagle, for his part, was left lamenting missed opportunities.
“If I put some of those chances away, (and) I had plenty, then it’s a completely different story,” Neagle said. “The game is deflated, they’re out of it, they’re away from home, and we’re up two, three goals.”
For the Crew, the win offers hope that Berhalter and new owner Anthony Precourt have put one of the league’s flagship franchises thoroughly back in the mix.
“We just want to play our game,” said Clark, “and we don’t really care who we’re playing.”
Looking forward, both teams are back in action on Saturday. The Crew host Toronto FC, while the Sounders head to Portland to face the Timbers.
Here are the match highlights:
This is awful. The league has to do something to prevent games like this. The attendance might drop for Seattle and it’d be the end of MLS
Anyone know what was up with all the booing at the final whistle? Trying to find any other reason than just “sore losers”, but coming up well short.
Watch the replay as the ref was addressing the Seattle players. He was still in the 6 yd box and did not signal for the kick. Refs are usually past the 18 for a corner. No one thought it was a legit kick. Shame on the Sounders for not being ready. Like a boxing match, always protect yourself. Poor coaching really…
Really? Poor coaching? Maybe if you’re blaming their youth coach from 20 years ago. We can blame Sigi for plenty, and do. But it’s on the players here.
I was watching the game from that end of the field and no one in the stands or on the field (other than the corner taker) had any idea that the ball was being played. All the players in the box for both teams were milling about and as stated above the ref was on the end line dealing with the scuffle that caused the corner.
I have never seen a short corner like this allowed at the end of the game when you know its going to be the last play.
Unfortunate result for Seattle, they created far more chances but wasted the majority of them. Were extremely dangerous going forward even after going down to 10 men. Sometimes you are going to lose games when you were the better team on the field and that is what happened to Seattle yesterday. Higuain almost scored a really nice chip goal in this game though.
So where is that clown who disagreed with me about berhalter being coach of the year….
Win on the road, on the turf, to Seattle? Yeah, I’ll have some of that.
Beautiful job by the crew forward to place his body between the ball and the defender to force the defender to go through him to get the ball. And the crew corner at the end was also a thing of beauty
The Crew looked anemic until the red card. Truly a game changer.
meh…legit card…Seattle had their chances…one play doesn’t = 90 min. Things happens, not one thing determines the outcome of the game. 90 min is the sum of the outcomes of each second. Not one play or one person. If Seattle creates that many chances (w/10 men) they will win their share.
What was the card for? Mlssoccer.com reads “professional foul.”. It was not dangerous play, it was not dogso (he got a shot off). A foul and pk were warranted, but straight red? Very questionable.
Also, Higuain was find for simulation for last week, Jiminez was carded for diving this week and Oduro went down like he was shot after minimal contact from Traore. There’s clearly a trend of embellishment in the Crew’s game plan.
Because he was the last defender and it was a clear goal scoring opportunity. One on one with the keeper to beat.
It sucks for Seattle that it results in a red card and a PK, but until FIFA changes the rule, it’s the right call.
Contrary to popular belief, I think there is actually no rule saying a red is given for being the last defender on a goal scoring opportunity.
A foul is a foul is a foul. Red card, yellow card, or no card. The only difference is that any foul in the box is given a penalty kick.
You’re right it’s not for “Last Man” it’s for denying an obvious goal scoring opportunity. Usually that means if you’ve beaten the last man and he tackles you to stop you from having that opportunity to score.
Dustin and MJ, both of your logic(s) are flawed (or maybe FIFA?). What if Stefan Frei’s face wasn’t in the way and Oduro scores?. That eliminates the DOGSO theory. Not only that, Traore certainly doesn’t get sent off and likely doesn’t get carded at all…
Getting your shot off doesn’t matter when it’s effected by the foul that happens before the shot get’s off.
“The Crew looked anemic until the red card”
Did you watch the first half? It’s been a while since I’ve seen that much action! They didn’t create as many chances on goal as I’d like, but come on, it was far from anemic.
This is going to be a fun season!!!!!
It was a fairly even game according to the stats.