A late, dramatic, and controversial 3-2 home win for the Columbus Crew against the Philadelphia Union on Saturday night keeps them in the race for the postseason. The three points move the Crew’s season total to 48 (14-11-6), one point behind the Houston Dynamo for the fifth and final spot in the Eastern Conference.
Both teams lined up in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Columbus’ starting XI remained the same from the previous game except for Chris Birchall replacing Emilio Renteria on the right wing.
The first half consisted of two goals that counted and one that got called back, yet none of these events occurred until the 44th minute. Columbus opened the scoring after Sebastian Miranda’s chip pass from the right side of the field found Jairo Arrieta in the box. The ball floated over the head of Union defender Amobi Okugo before Arrieta chested it down to his left foot. Arrieta slotted the ball past Philly keeper Zac MacMatch, beating him at his near post.
Two minutes into first-half stoppage time, the Union’s goal from a free kick was called back. Okugo collided with Crew Andy Gruenebaum, putting the ball past the Crew keeper. However, Okugo’s right arm was raised above his head, knocking the ball into the net with his hand, Diego Maradona style. Okugo received a yellow card for the blatant handball.
In the fifth and final minute of first-half stoppage time, Arrieta struck again. This time, Gruenebaum booted the ball down the field to the Costa Rican. Arrieta let the ball bounce, turning and beating Okugo in the same motion before flicking the ball past Raymon Gaddis onto his left foot. Arrieta finished low and to the far post, beating MacMath for the second time in six minutes.
Philadelphia’s first goal came by way of a penalty kick. In the 64th minute, Michael Lahoud’s through ball sent Antoine Hoppenot clear through on goal. Hoppenot took a touch past a diving Gruenebaum, whose hands caught Hoppenot’s legs. Hoppenot went down, earning a penalty and Gruenebaum a yellow card. Danny Cruz sent his shot from the spot into the bottom left corner, beating Gruenbaum who dove to the right.
The Union’s late equalizer seemed to be signify the end of the Crew’s playoff hopes. In the 86th minute, Gaddis’ deflected cross reached Jack McInerney in the box. McInerney’s first touch with his right foot flicked the ball over Gruenebaum’s head and sent the ball right inside the left post, tying the game at two.
However, just a minute later, Columbus revived the game and, possibly, their season. After an attempted give-and-go between Milovan Mirosevic and Federico Higuain, the ball fell to Union defender Carlos Valdes near the top of the box. Valdes’ attempted clearance was blocked by an onrushing Josh Williams. The deflection went though Philly’s defense and landed at Mirosevic’s feet. Replays clearly showed Mirosevic to be a foot or two offside, but the assistant referee’s flag stayed down. Mirosevic controlled the ball and blasted it into the top-right corner of the goal, giving the Crew a much-needed three points from the 3-2 victory.