The Crew were not able to pick up all three points in San Jose on Saturday after maintaining a lead for the entire second half; however, they were able to perfect this new game plan of theirs in Seattle on Wednesday night, winning 2-0.
It took seven games, but Columbus were finally able to pick up a win against their former coach Sigi Schmid’s Seattle side.
Seattle started out in their normal 4-1-3-2 formation. David Estrada started over Mauro Rosales on the right wing. The Crew lined up in a 4-2-2. Emilio Renteria and Eddie Gaven played up top, while the midfield consisted of Justin Meram, Cole Grossman, Danny O’Rourke, and Dilly Duka. In defense, Carlos Mendes got the start over Eric Gehrig, playing in his first ever game for the Crew.
Columbus struggled with possession early on, with the better chances going to Seattle. The match looked to be an identical repeat of the Earthquakes game just four days earlier. Osvaldo Alonso had a good chance to get the first goal in the 10th minute, dribbling around Sebastian Miranda before shooting from outside the box. However, his low attempt went right to Crew goalie Andy Gruenebaum.
Justin Meram scored in the first half of both games, but this time, Crew fans only had to wait 15 minutes for their team to take the lead. Dilly Duka dribbled down the right wing, before cutting back to his left foot. He whipped a cross into the box, where Meram out jumped Seattle defender Adam Johansson. Meram met the ball with his head, knocking it into the ground right in front of the right-side netting. The goal was Meram’s third in consecutive games.
The Crew almost doubled their lead in the 31st minute. Emilio Renteria flicked a header toward goal from the top of the box. The ball looped in the air and almost beat Seattle goalie Bryan Meredith, but it harmlessly hit the top netting. Two minutes later, Sounders forward Eddie Johnson made a good diagonal run in the box, but he misconnected on Alonso’s cross.
In the 43rd minute, Crew midfielder Danny O’Rourke went down after contesting for a header. The injury appeared to be very serious and in his general lower leg/ankle vicinity. Rookie Kevan George came on for his first ever Crew appearance. O’Rourke’s absence was not necessarily missed, as George played very well for being subbed in at a difficult time.
Right before the half, Sounders midfielder Brad Evans’ left-footed shot went just wide of the right post, leaving Seattle down 1-0 at the break.
The Sounders did not wait long to continue pressuring the Crew’s goal upon returning to play. Alvaro Fernandez had an open header that went wide. Freddy Montero had two close-range effort that the new Crew captain Gruenebaum was able to save.
David Estrada forced another close call in the 72nd minute after chipping a ball into the box that just missed everyone, including the far post.
Four minutes later, the Crew scored again on just their second shot on goal. Renteria got on the end of a loose ball in Seattle’s end of the field. The ball bounced up nicely for the Venezuelan about 10 yards outside of the box. Renteria drilled the ball with his laces, causing it to dip right under the crossbar and over Meredith’s outstretched hands. The goal was Renteria’s first of the season and definitely one worth waiting for.
The 2-0 Columbus lead silenced the 38,311 fans in attendance. It also caused for a very chippy end to the game. Eddie Johnson hit Crew defender Josh Williams in the face, unknown to the referee. Alonso made a late, studs-up tackle on Cole Grossman that was lucky to only earn a yellow card.
Seattle had two good chances in stoppage time to get a goal back. Both attempts came from Freddy Montero. In the 91st minute, Montero’s header off a corner hit Eddie Gaven and the left post before bouncing out. In the 95th minute, his long-distance shot skipped right in front of Gruenebaum. However, the Crew goalie was able to make the save, eventually earning his fourth clean sheet of the season.
Columbus can definitely call this Western road trip a success. They picked up four valuable points against two of the league’s best teams, and they were only minutes away from taking the full six points available. The team returns home this Saturday to take on the Chicago Fire in an intense rivalry game.