After being barraged with shot attempts all night, Crew goalie Andy Gruenebaum finally succumbed to San Jose’s attack in the 90th minute. It was a valiant effort, but Gruenebaum came just short of carrying his team to three vital away points.
The Crew used the same starting XI from last week’s game against FC Dallas, except two new forwards were inserted. Out were Emilio Renteria and Ethan Finlay (concussion), and in were Olman Vargas and Justin Meram. The Earthquakes lined up in a 4-4-2.
San Jose were by far the more dangerous side in the opening minutes. Gruenebaum was called upon numerous times to bail out his team’s bad defending.
Gruenebaum single-handedly kept the score 0-0 in the 21st minute. Earthquakes forward Steven Lenhart received a pass near the top of the box. He played the ball around defender Eric Gehrig to himself. Gehrig, caught on the wrong side of Lenhart, was forced to attempt to win the ball. However, his legs tangled with Lenhart’s, who went down in the box and earned a penalty.
Chris Wondolowski, MLS’s current leading scorer, stepped up to take the spot kick. He drilled the ball low and right down the middle. Gruenebaum dove to his left, but he still managed to kick save the ball out of bounds for a corner kick.
On the ensuing corner after the penalty, Gruenebaum made yet another diving save, this time keeping out a Lenhart header. Later in the half, Gruenebaum made a point-blank save on Simon Dawkins. The rebound fell to Wondolowski, and his shot forced another diving save.
The Crew had opportunities of their own in the first half. In the 34th minute, Milovan Mirosevic played a nice pass to Tony Tchani, who played the ball right back to Mirosevic, taking him in on goal. Instead of shooting in the one on one opportunity, Mirosevic squared the ball back across the box to Tchani, who managed to whiff his shot attempt.
Later in the half, Sebastian Miranda played a ball over the top to Eddie Gaven. Gaven dribbled toward San Jose goalie Jon Busch, but decided to play the ball toward the middle of the field instead of shooting. His pass was just behind Justin Meram.
In first-half stoppage time, the game finally got its first goal. Tchani played a pass to Meram on the left flank. Meram dribbled toward goal and cut the ball back to his right foot. He bent a shot from the left side of the field straight into the right-side netting of the goal. Busch had no chance to save; the ball was placed so perfectly. The goal was Meram’s second in consecutive games.
After the half, Mirosevic was subbed off the field due to a groin injury. Cole Grossman replaced him. The Crew stayed in the same formation, but changed it up a bit. Gaven moved to forward and Meram took his spot at left mid. In the 60th minute, Dilly Duka came on for Meram in a straight switch.
Tchani had a good chance to double the Crew’s lead in the 76th minute, but his header from Grossman’s corner went just wide of the right post. In the 80th minute, Robert Warzycha continued his ritual of subbing Shaun Francis in for Vukovic. I still don’t understand this sub. Vukovic never seems completely gassed, and his crosses are extremely valuable to the Crew’s attack.
Columbus seemed as if they were actually going to come away with all three points after dealing with constant pressure all night, but they finally caved in the 90th minute. Alan Gordon headed a long ball down to Wondolowski in the box. Wondolowski controlled the ball and played it back to Gordon, whose left-footed shot struck the crossbar. The ball bounced off the ground back into the air, where Gordon was able to score with a jumping, side-volley scissor-kick.
Each team had one more good opportunity to win the game in stoppage time, but both efforts went just over the crossbar. The game ended 1-1.
The Earthquakes most dangerous player was Simon Dawkins, who dribbled through Columbus’ defense with ease all night long. He was constantly able to cut inside from the left wing and either shoot or find open teammates.
The Man of the Match for Columbus, and the game, was definitely Andy Gruenebaum. His efforts kept the scoreline reasonable all night long. San Jose could have easily scored five goals if it weren’t for Gruenebaum’s saves.