The Columbus Crew defeated Real Salt Lake last night, 2-1, after a second half comeback in front of 9,650 fans in Crew Stadium that wasn’t short of talking points. With the win, Columbus moved to 4-3-6 this year (18 points) and third place in the Eastern Conference. Salt Lake dropped to 6-3-2 (20 points) and are currently fourth in the West. The win was the Crew’s first since April 30.
Before the game started, Shawn Mitchell from the Columbus Dispatch reported that reserve defender Josh Williams has been suspended for testing positive for methandienone metabolites, a prohibited performance enhancing substance. Williams will be suspended for 10 games and will be fined 10% of his salary.
Now on to the game. The Crew had let in a goal in the first 10 minutes in three of their past five games. They were focusing on reversing that trend, but they didn’t achieve their goal Wednesday night. Salt Lake opened the scoring in the 7th minute. Jamison Olave got on the end of a RSL corner and was able to side foot the ball right over Crew goalie William Hesmer’s hand and into the top corner of the goal.
Eddie Gaven hit the post in the first half, and Jeff Cunningham had an open look inside the box, but the Crew couldn’t equalize, and the first half ended 1-0.
Crew rookie Justin Meram came on after the half for Kevin Burns, and he injected new life into Columubus. Cunningham had a header bang off the post in the 59th minute. In the 74th minute, Meram went down in the box and earned a penalty kick. Jeff Cunningham was supposed to be the designated penalty kick taker. Cunningham is one goal behind Jaime Moreno for the all time MLS goal leader, and he is currently tied with Brian McBride for the all time Crew goal leader. Fans and players expected Cunningham to take the penalty. However, Andres Mendoza grabbed the ball and insisted upon taking it. Cunningham tried to change Mendoza’s mind, but he was unsuccessful. Right back Sebastian Miranda came over to tell Mendoza to let Cunningham take the kick, but his efforts were fruitless. Captain Chad Marshall made one last attempt, but Mendoza ignored his teammates’ commands. Mendoza took the penalty and buried it into the back of the net to tie the game. Cunningham was the first player to go after Mendoza to celebrate with him, but Mendoza shrugged him off and put his finger to his lip trying to silence the boos that had been raining down on him before he took the penalty.
The Crew took the lead in the 82nd minute on a long distance shot from Josh Gardner that took a deflection on its way to the goal.
Mendoza was subbed off in the 85th minute. As he was walking off the field, he smirked to the crowd and told them to be quiet again with his finger to his lips.
William Hesmer had to make a great diving, reaction save in stoppage time to keep the three points for Columbus.
After the game, Mendoza didn’t engage in the thanking of the Nordecke with the rest of his teammates. In the locker room, Mendoza said he didn’t know of Coach Warzycha’s predetermined penalty kick order, and he had no idea Cunningham was on the verge of breaking and tying goal scoring records. Cunningham handled the situation very professionally with his quotes.
The Crew next play at home on Sunday against the Chicago Fire. Real Salt Lake play Saturday in Philadelphia against the Union.
Columbus Crew – William Hesmer, Sebastian Miranda, Chad Marshall, Julius James, Josh Gardner, Eddie Gaven, Emmanuel Ekpo, Kevin Burns (Justin Meram 46), Rich Balchan, Andres Mendoza (Andy Iro 85), Jeff Cunningham (Aaron Horton 89).
Real Salt Lake – Nick Rimando, Tony Beltran, Jamison Olave, Chris Schuler, Chris Wingert, Ned Grabavoy, Collen Warner (Andy Williams 66), Kyle Beckerman, Nelson Gonzalez (Luis Gil 59), Jean Alexandre (Robbie Russell 80), Fabian Espindola.