The Columbus Crew held off a spirited challenge from the Philadelphia Union on Saturday night to post a much-needed 3-2 victory. Jairo Arrieta scored twice in the first half, while Milovan Mirosevic put the Crew back in front just one minute after the Union had clawed back to a 2-2 tie late in the second half.
Chris Birchall returned to the starting lineup for the first time in four games, holding down the right flank opposite Eddie Gaven. Head coach Robert Warzycha explained after the game that this was intended to allow Milovan Mirosevic to operate in a more offensive capacity.
The Crew nearly jumped ahead in just the third minute as Federico Higuain looped a ball behind the Union back line. Jairo Arrieta took advantage of the Union’s poor defensive shape to burst onto the loose ball, but his run carried him too far wide of goal and his eventual shot was poorly taken.
This offensive pressure continued through the first half. Columbus rarely were able to mount long chains of passes, but put five shots on target while shutting down the Union attack.
Philadelphia’s best scoring chance of the first half came in the 28th minute. Danny Cruz, lurking on the left touch line, broke into space on a through ball before threading a cross to the area just in front of Andy Gruenebaum. The Crew goalkeeper was able to just get a hand onto the cross in advance of a Philadelphia attacker, preventing what would have been a point blank shot.
In the dying moments of the first half, as Philadelphia were showing signs of life offensively, Columbus forward Jairo Arrieta scored twice in four minutes. In the 44th minute, Sebastian Miranda drilled a cross from the right flank that barely sailed over Amobi Okugo, allowing Arrieta to shoot past Zac MacMath to the near post.
The second, deep in stoppage time, also took advantage of a misstep by Okugo. Arrieta beat the Union center back to a long ball forward from Andy Gruenebaum, shooting left-footed past MacMath.
Columbus would need every bit of their two-goal cushion in the second half as the team came under increasing pressure as the game wore on. The insertion of Antoine Hoppenot in the 57th minute stretched a tiring Columbus defense, leading directly to the Union’s first goal. Hoppenot, lurking between the Crew center backs, broke behind the defense and into the penalty area, where he was tripped up by Andy Gruenebaum to concede a penalty kick. Danny Cruz duly converted to halve the Columbus lead.
Philadelphia continued pressuring, amassing a 62-38 advantage in possession, and eventually found a second goal courtesy of a deflected cross. Roger Torres’ ball from the right flank banked off Chris Birchall’s back, looping onto Jack McInerney’s foot from point blank range. Chad Marshall and Andy Gruenebaum were both wrong-footed by the deflection.
Barely a minute later, however, the Crew had regained their lead – in controversial fashion. After surging up the left flank, Josh Williams combined with Emilio Renteria and Milovan Mirosevic to overload the Union defense. After initially losing possession, Williams deflected an attempted clearance to the feet of Mirosevic, whom replays showed was at least a yard behind the defense. No foul was called, however, allowing Mirosevic to turn and blast the game winner over MacMath’s head.
What it means
The victory allows the Crew to keep pace with rivals Houston and DC United for the final Eastern Conference playoff positions. The Crew stand on 48 points from a 14-11-6 record, but are still in sixth place after Houston’s victory over New England later on Saturday night. The Crew are one point behind the Dynamo with three games to play.
With their loss, Philadelphia has been officially eliminated from playoff contention.
Timeline of events
19′ Corner kick, Philadelphia (left side) – cleared for a throw-in
44′ 1-0 Jairo Arrieta (Sebastian Miranda)
47+’ Caution, Amobi Okugo (dissent)
49+’ 2-0 Jairo Arrieta (unassisted)
46′ Corner kick, Philadelphia (left) – cleared for counter-attack
57′ Antoine Hoppenot replaces Josue Martinez
61′ Caution, Danny O’Rourke (professional foul on Antoine Hoppenot)
62′ Corner kick, Philadelphia (left) – headed shot wide
64′ Caution, Andy Gruenebaum (foul on Antoine Hoppeenot)
65′ 2-1 Danny Cruz (penalty kick)
66′ Emilio Renteria replaces Jairo Arrieta
66′ Jack McInerney replaces Gabriel Farfan
67′ Corner kick, Columbus (left) – headed clear
68′ Corner kick, Philadelphia (left) – punched clear
74′ Corner kick, Columbus (left) – headed off target
80′ Eric Gehrig replaces Julius James
81′ Roger Torres replaces Danny Cruz
86′ 2-2 Jack McInerney (unassisted)
86′ Justin Meram replaces Eddie Gaven
87′ 3-2 Milovan Mirosevic (Josh Wiliams)
89′ Corner kick, Philadelphia (left) – headed shot wide
89′ Corner kick, Philadelphia (right) – headed wide
94+’ Corner kick, Philadelphia (right) – shot blocked
Andy Gruenebaum, Sebastian Miranda, Chad Marshall, Julius James (Eric Gehrig 80′), Josh Williams, Danny O’Rourke, Chris Birchall, Eddie Gaven (Justin Meram 86′), Milovan Mirosevic, Federico Higuain, Jairo Arrieta (Emilio Renteria 66′)
Matt Lampson, Nemanja Vukovic, Tony Tchani, Olman Vargas
Zac MacMath, Sheanon Williams, Amobi Okugo, Carlos Valdes, Raymon Gaddis, Gabriel Farfan (Jack McInerney 66′), Michael Lahoud, Brian Carroll, Michael Farfan, Danny Cruz (Roger Torres 81′), Josue Martinez (Antoine Hoppenot 57′)
Chris Konopka, Chris Albright, Gabriel Gomez, Chandler Hoffman
Columbus will host Sporting Kansas City next Sunday in an afternoon match. Their last two games of the season bring rivals old and new, traveling to DC before hosting Toronto FC.
Philadelphia’s late season road adventures continue this Wednesday with a trip to Chicago. Their home finale follows next weekend against New England before finishing the season on the road to Houston and Kansas City.