Photo by Greg Bartram/USA Today Sports
By DANIEL KARELL
COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Columbus Crew’s offensive struggles turned out to be short lived.
The Crew found their scoring boots on Saturday night in a massive showdown against Western Conference power the Seattle Sounders, as a Kei Kamara brace led the Crew to a 3-2 victory in front of 16,714 fans at MAPFRE Stadium. Clint Dempsey scored a pair of goals for the Sounders in the defeat.
It was the Crew’s first win at home against the Sounders in five meetings.
“I’m pleased with the game,”Crew head coach Gregg Berhalter said. “I think the way the game was played, I told the guys, it entertained the fans, it entertained the people watching, and I think they did that. We put a lot of energy into it and I’m pleased with that. As far as we’re concerned, and we know they’re a good opponent, but it’s another game.”
Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid said that he believed the back to back trips to the eastern time zone may have taken a toll on the Sounders’ legs.
“We’re just disappointed,” Schmid said. “I thought the Crew played well. We were fortunate. Stefan Frei came up with some good saves. I thought we were a little bit of a step slow, maybe the travel two weekends in a row coast to coast made it a little tough.”
After a few early forays forward, the Crew took over momentum of the match and were able to get on the board with one of their first few chances.
Winger Justin Meram controlled the ball in the box and evaded a trio of Sounders defenders before laying a pass off for left back Waylon Francis. The Costa Rican curled in a beauty and Kamara dashed in front of former Crew defensive stalwart Chad Marshall to head home for a 1-0 lead in the 10th minute.
The Crew came close to adding to their lead on multiple occasions in the following ten minutes, with Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei coming up with some big saves. Frei first saved a first-timed shot from Tony Tchani while the Crew midfielder was unmarked in the box and then saved shots by both attacking midfielder Federico Higuain and winger Ethan Finlay, the latter coming on a breakaway down the middle of the field.
But in the 24th minute, the U.S. Men’s National Team forward Dempsey showed off his quality and produced a piece of magic.
Sounders midfielder Marco Pappa found Dempsey with a yard of space outside the box, and on his weaker left foot, Dempsey curled a shot in off the post to tie the game at 1-1.
The Sounders followed the goal with a sustained amount of pressure, as Crew goalkeeper Steve Clark was called into action to save a header from Chad Marshall, and in the 41st minute, Clark watched a chip from Andy Rose sail just wide of the upper 90.
The Crew came out of halftime with a renewed sense of purpose and reverted to their early-match form, using the wings and overlapping runs from their outside backs.
The added pressure on goal from the Crew and their insistence on crosses helped lead to their second goal of the game. Dribbling from the left side in the 50th minute, Higuain danced past three challenges before rifling a low shot past Frei that he never saw through a maze of defenders and opponents.
“He was great tonight,” Berhalter said of Higuain. “He’s been strong this year. His movement, the way he can control the game, is excellent. It was like that tonight again and also he got a goal. We’re happy with that.”
The goal early in the second half turned out to be one of the turning points of the game.
“I think (on) the second goal, we didn’t defend that well at all,” Schmid said. “We didn’t step up and that was the goal that soft of broke our back a little bit. That was early in the second half and then everything you talk about at halftime goes out the window.”
Nine minutes later, the Crew took a two-goal cushion after Ethan Finley missed a pair of golden opportunities. Meram used a brilliant touch to evade Sounders right back Tyrone Mears before sending a fizzing cross across the face of goal. No players got on the end of it, but Crew right back Hector Jimenez met the ball at the back post and crossed into the middle where Kamara re-directed the pass home.
“Kei does a really good job at getting in great spots and tonight he was in great spots again,” Finlay said. “Credit to Hector on that second (goal). He followed that one up, played a one-time ball, and Frei had no chance.”
The Sounders cut the deficit to one in controversial fashion as Sounders Designated Player Obafemi Martins beat the offside trap and ran onto the end of a floated ball, taking a shot on goal. Clark made a reflex save but Dempsey arrived to send home the rebound in the 75th minute.
The goal earned large boos from the fans at MAPFRE Stadium, who believed that either Martins or Dempsey were offside.
After the match, referee Edvin Jurisevic defended his linesman’s decision not to flag for offside on the play.
“The answer is no,” Jurisevic said to the MLS pool reporter. “[Obafemi] Martins was judged to be onside and [Clint] Dempsey was judged to be even with the ball and they were therefore judged onside on the field.”
The Sounders sent wave after wave of attack after bringing both Lamar Neagle and Chad Barrett off the bench, but the Crew’s defense stood firm in the final 15 minutes of the match.
“They’re a very good attacking team and we knew we were going to be under pressure, and I think we dealt with it well,” Berhalter said.
Frei had one more big save left in his pocket in the 89th minute, as Crew substitute Kristinn Steindorsson fired a first-timed curling strike at the far post. Frei read it the whole way though and managed to push it beyond the far post by his fingertips.
The Crew will try to keep things rolling with a trip to the west coast to play the San Jose Earthquakes next Saturday. The Sounders return home for a top of the table Western Conference clash against FC Dallas the same day.
I see that his narrators are ashamed to scream GooooooooooooooaL.
Why? Soccer is not the same as American Football, Baseball or Basketball where the count usually goes 30 points. Then each goal (point) has to be celebrated as if it were an orgasm with a Gooooooooooooooooooooooal.