Optimism abounds in Columbus again. It’s been a while since a little bit of enthusiasm has surfaced in Ohio. A lot of credit has to be given to Brian Bliss and the way he has stepped up to the interim coaching job he was thrust into a month ago. Bliss seems to have instilled some confidence in the Crew, and it certainly shows when the team steps onto the field. Owner Anthony Precourt has implanted a lot of assurance in the players and fans, and has shown that his ambitions for the clubs are not to be taken lightly.
Despite the disappointing loss to the Dynamo last week, the Crew went to Canada in a somewhat buoyant mood because of Federico Higuain. The Argentine was fit enough to start in Montreal after missing a couple games because of injury. Any team in the league would miss a player of his significant talent and the Crew are no exception. He has been the catalyst of everything good that has happened in Columbus over the course of this disappointing season. While Pipa was out, players like Ryan Finley and Justin Meram have played well to take care of the burden. Meanwhile, the Impact came into the game on a 4 game unbeaten run, equaling their best run of the season.
The game opened up with a lot of Montreal pressure and attacking. The Crew did get into the game eventually, but the breakthrough came in the first half. Montreal took the lead through some admittedly slack defending from the usually steadfast Chad Marshall. Marco Di Vaio ghosted in behind the Crew center back and headed home. Coming behind on the road isn’t an easy task, but some new found Crew resilience shown through as the game ticked away. In the 66th minute, the comeback started. A set piece from Higuain found Chad Marshall at the back post and memories of 2008 came flooding back as his header hit the back of the net. Marshall hasn’t been at his goal scoring best this year, but his goal on Saturday is a signal that he may be back to his soaring best. Montreal was clearly startled, and started pouring players forward in hopes of retaking their lead.
But it was not to be for the Impact, as the Crew took all 3 points in the 78th minute. A counter attack created entirely from some Higuain magic found the Argentine outside of the box. His improvised flick into the middle was sublime, and Oduro was there to prod the ball into the Montreal goal. Both goals were made by Federico highlighting how important he is to this Columbus team, but this win was a team effort starting on the coach’s bench. Bliss has taken over a team languishing in the lower part of the Eastern Conference and has seen his team win 2 of his 3 games in charge. As for Higuain, he continues to amaze. Everything he touches on the pitch turns to gold. He’s taking the team on his back and trying to carry them to the finish line. It’s amazing to see, and I think it’ll improve the other players in the squad when they see that kind of dedication and talent on display every week. Having said that though, there is obviously a lot of work that still needs to get done, but this is definitely a step in the right direction after a disappointing result last week.
The Crew was practically left for dead in the Eastern Conference a few weeks ago, but a late resurgence has seen the playoff picture open up just a little bit more. The Crew currently sits in 8th place, a full 4 points behind 5th place Chicago Fire. Columbus needs some help from teams around them, but there is still a real chance that the black and yellow could sneak in. The Crew plays at home to Chicago on the 21st of September, and a win would improve the playoff chances immensely.
(image courtesy of USA Today Sports Images)