Losing game after game can take a lot out of a supporter. The Columbus Crew was desperately in need of some magic going into Saturday’s home game against the New York Red Bulls. The Crew had lost 3 straight and 6 out of 7 since the beginning of July. The team was sliding into oblivion, and even a change of ownership wasn’t enough to spur the Crew to a win last week at Houston. As new owner Anthony Precourt settled into his first home match in his new position, the crowd at Crew stadium was noisy and loud at over 19,000 people.
The Crew started the game without Danny O’Rourke and Matias Sanchez due to injury, and was forced to start a central midfield partnership of Bernardo Anor and Wil Trapp. Justin Meram started on the left wing, and Dominic Oduro (new hairdo and all) was placed on the right wing. Matt Lampson started the game in goal for the Crew because of an injury to stalwart Andy Gruenebaum. The New York Red Bulls were still without Tim Cahill to injury, and Thierry Henry didn’t travel to Ohio because of an Achilles problem.
The first half was largely uneventful, although both goalkeepers were called upon to make a couple of decent saves. The game went into the halftime break tied at 0 and both teams would be pushing to pick up all 3 points. Without Henry or Cahill, the Red Bulls seemed over reliant on midfield players like Dax McCarty, and as a result, the service up top to Espindola and Luyindula was lacking. The same could have been said about the Crew as well, as Jairo Arrieta seemed isolated at times in the first half when Higuain dropped deeper to receive the ball.
Higuain was struggling to make his impact felt on the game as it approached the hour mark, but he has the mark of a truly great player. With the team struggling, and 3 points crucial, Higuain took his teammates on his shoulders and carried them to victory. As I said earlier, the Crew was in desperate need of something to get them going, and the Argentinian playmaker happily obliged. His penalty in the 62nd minute was the winner, but his second goal in the 76th minute was the dagger in the hearts of the Red Bulls. The impressive Wil Trapp took the ball in the midfield, and slid Higuain in on the right hand side. All it took was one look from Federico to realize that Red Bull keeper Luis Robles was off his line. His subsequent chipped finish was a beautiful way to end a beautiful game for the Crew.
Winning a game as emphatically as that, against a team as good as the Red Bulls, is something Crew fans have been waiting all year for. If the Crew can improve upon this win, and use the momentum into the final part of the season, I don’t see why Columbus can’t make the playoffs. This win will also do wonders for the Crew’s confidence going into the Trillium Cup next week. The Crew still has an outside chance at the playoffs in the East, and need to start getting 3 points at every possible opportunity going forward.
(image courtesy of USA Today Sports)