Photo by Greg Bartram / USA Today Sports Images
By ADAM TROXTELL
The Columbus Crew needed their bench, but it doesn’t make a win any less significant.
For the first time in five tries, the Crew topped Sporting Kansas City, 3-2, thanks to an 88th minute goal from second half substitute Jack McInerney. After initially struggling to turn possession into goals, the Crew finally found a way forward in the face of heavy Sporting KC resistance.
Marcel De Jong opened the scoring at MAPFRE Stadium in the 15th minute, striking from close range. The Crew struck back through Ethan Finlay in the 35th minute, but Graham Zusi had the visitors back ahead midway through the second half.
Goals from Tony Tchani and McInerney in the final 10 minutes assured the Crew will stay in third place in the Eastern Conference. Sporting missed a chance to climb closer to the top in the West with its second straight defeat.
But it looked like the visitors might escape with all three points, especially since its counter attack was working better than the Crew’s possession game.
Saad Abdul-Salaam came flying forward in the 15th minute to collect a ball headed down by Dom Dwyer. The right back sped into the box before sending the ball across goal where de Jong buried the ball into the roof of the net for a 1-0 SKC lead.
The Crew struggled to turn possession into chances. Only when Kei Kamara broke free after a giveaway at midfield did they register their first shot on goal in the 26th minute, and it was simple for goalkeeper Tim Melia.
With frustration growing, the Crew resorted to a less conventional scoring method. Higuain’s long-range blast cannoned off of the underside of the crossbar. Kamara collected in the left side of the box, firing across goal where Finlay was there to chest it across for the 35th minute equalizer.
Pressure grew on the SKC goal as the second half rolled on, but the Crew still struggled to find a finishing touch. That issue turned into a serious problem in the 62nd minute.
After breaking down the left on a counter, Zusi cut inside and found enough space to curl a strike perfectly inside the far right post for a surprise 2-1 lead.
Now chasing the game, the Crew put McInerney on to try and make more of their possession. It almost paid off immediately, with the sub playing Higuain through on goal only for the resulting shot to spin well wide.
Oddly, it was only when Kamara left the field that the Crew pulled ahead. Higuain provided the equalizer by spinning in a free kick from the right that Tchani poked home at the back post.
Then came McInerney’s moment. Higuain was again in the middle of things, hitting a bouncing pass first time that was saved by Melia but passed home on the rebound by the second half sub.
The Crew now hit the road to face New York City FC on Saturday. Sporting has a chance to bounce back against the last place Colorado Rapids later that same day.