The Columbus Crew were beaten by the Seattle Sounders in front of 36,364 fans at CenturyLink Field on Saturday afternoon, 6-2. Seattle took the lead during the 4th minute and never looked back. However, one positive can be taken from the game for Columbus: Jeff Cunningham scored his MLS record 134th goal. With the win, the Sounders move to 13-5-9 (48 points) and remain in second place in the West. The Crew stay at 40 points (11-8-7), but will still keep their lead over the rest of the Eastern Conference.
Seattle scored their first goal in the 4th minute. Lamar Neagle received a pass near the left sideline from Mike Fucito. Neagle managed to hold off Crew defender Rich Balchan as he dribbled towards goal. Neagle released a right footed shot that goalie William Hesmer was able to get a hand on. However, the ball deflected off Hesmer’s hands and spun into the net.
The Sounders won a penalty in the 15th minute. Off a throw in, Fucito posted Balchan up in the box. At the last moment, Fucito turned, and the ball hit Balchan’s hands that were up against his chest. If his hands weren’t there, they ball would have been played cleanly off his chest and cleared out of danger. However, referee Baldomero Toledo pointed to the spot, and Mauro Rosales scored with a hard shot to the left corner.
The third goal came just five minutes later. James Riley sent in a cross from the right end line. The ball floated over everyone in the box except Lamar Neagle, whose right footed volley beat Hesmer at his near post.
Before the Crew could escape to halftime, Seattle scored a fourth. In the 40th minute, Rosales played a ball into the center of the box. Hesmer came out to get it, but Fucito got there first. Fucito took one touch away from Hesmer, before knocking the ball into the net with his right foot.
Columbus were able to get a goal back in the 59th minute. Forward Emilio Renteria got onto the end of a long ball in the box. As Renteria went to shoot, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado barely nicked his foot. Renteria fell to the ground, and another questionable penalty was awarded by Toledo. Tommy Heinemann grabbed the ball and gave it to Jeff Cunningham. Cunningham’s only goal on the season this year was a game winner against Vancouver in the 90th minute. That goal was also his 133rd career goal in MLS play, tying him for first place all-time with Jaime Moreno. Cunningham’s penalty went to the right as Sounders goalie Kasey Keller dove to the left. The ball went into the back of the net, and Cunningham finally got his record breaking goal. Jeff Cunningham is now MLS’s all-time leading scorer with 134 career goals.
Only eleven minutes after such a good moment for a Crew great, Seattle scored once again as Lamar Neagle completed his hat-trick. Neagle received the ball on the left hand side of the field. He dribbled towards the end line, and cut the ball back, beating Crew defender Sebastian Miranda along the way. Neagle unleashed a right footed rocket from the top of the box. The ball ricocheted off the crossbar and bounced straight down. It initially wasn’t given, but the ball did cross the entire goal line before bouncing out, and the Sounders had their fifth goal.
Josh Gardner scored a beautiful goal for Columbus in the 73rd minute. The Crew earned a free kick near the center of the field. Gardner’s free kick was an absolute bullet, with almost no movement on the ball until the very last second. Kasey Keller couldn’t do anything, and the ball went flying into the goal.
One minute later, Gardner scored again, but this time for Seattle. Neagle played a low cross into the box from the left side of the field. The ball bounced a couple of times and ended up at Gardner’s feet. His attempted clearance was a terrible one, and he ended up tapping the ball past Hesmer. Seattle’s sixth and final goal was an own-goal.
The absence of Crew defender Julius James due to yellow card accumulation was bigger than expected. Rookie Rich Balchan took his place, and didn’t do the best job in the world. To Balchan’s credit, he is just coming back from an injury. That makes you wonder if maybe there was a better option in the center of defense that Coach Robert Warzycha could have used, perhaps fellow rookie Eric Gehrig.
Columbus still cannot beat the Sigi Schmid lead Sounders. Seattle is now 4-0-3 all-time against the Crew.
The six goals for the Sounders are a team record. This is only the second time in Crew history a team has managed to score six goals against them, the first one occurring in a 6-4 loss to Kansas City on May 2, 1996.
Columbus now has a week off, before playing Toronto FC at Crew Stadium on September 10th. The Sounders return to action rather quickly. They play against FC Dallas in the semifinals of the U.S. Open Cup on Tuesday in Seattle.
Columbus Crew – William Hesmer, Sebastian Miranda, Rich Balchan, Chad Marshall, Josh Gardner, Kevin Burns, Emmanuel Ekpo, Robbie Rogers, Dilly Duka (Jeff Cunningham 56), Andres Mendoza (Tommy Heinemann 56), Emilio Renteria (Justin Meram 76).
Seattle Sounders – Kasey Keller, James Riley, Jeff Parke (Zach Scott 75), Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Tyson Wahl, Mauro Rosales (Alvaro Fernandez 71), Osvaldo Alonso, Erik Friberg, Lamar Neagle, Mike Fucito (Nate Jaqua 78), Fredy Montero.