Crew offense explodes but poor defense by both sides gives fans a show.In what many considered to be a game destined for a goalless draw, both sets of defenders did not receive that message, as sloppy marking and quality attacking play gave the close to 9500 fans at Crew Stadium a rare offensive spectacle. Chivas USA goals from Nick LaBrocca, Andrew Boyens and Jorge Flores gave the visitors leads of 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2 respectively. But a Andres Mendoza brace, due in part to a horror moment from veteran Simon Elliot, and a fine bit of close control from Emmanuel Ekpo completed the Crew's fightback.
Andres Mendoza has been a frustrating figure for Crew fans, as his moments of class have been over shadowed by a lack of work ethic and results. However, the Peruvian DP signaled his intent just 30 seconds in, when after a good passing move down the right a cross was floated in and Mendoza was able to beat his man to the ball, but the headed effort went wide.
But it was to be a dream start for the visitors, as just four minutes in Chivas was in the lead through Nick LaBrocca. Former Crew player Simon Elliot was given time near the area to put in a cross to the back post, where a lurking Justin Braun was able to send the ball back across goal, and LaBrocca had a simple finish unmarked from three yards out. Poor defending all around, but take nothing away from a quality move by the Goats.
With the way the Crew had been scoring this season, things may have looked bleak for the home side. But any thoughts of capitulation were put to bed just nine minutes later. A seemingly harmless foul in the Crew defensive half turned into a breakaway for Tommy Heinemann after the fouled Emmanuel Ekpo looked up and saw the striker's perfectly timed run.
Heinemann raced towards goal, and thought he had opened his MLS account when Chivas keeper Dan Kennedy fumbled his shot. The ball bundled its way on to the line, but defender Ante Jazic beat the on the prowl Andres Mendoza to clear his lines. The assistant referee was in perfect position to make the call, and replays showed that the whole of the ball did not cross the line. An excellent clearance, savings his goalkeepers blushes.
Kennedy's goal was breached shortly thereafter, as the lively Mendoza put a sublime finish in the back of the net benefiting from a wonderful 35-plus yard run by Emmanuel Ekpo. The Nigerian held off multiple Chivas defenders before finding Mendoza, and the Peruvian used the outside of his left foot to beat Kennedy. More quality attacking play, and that was to be the theme all night.
The game entered a rare lull after the goal, as it appeared both sides wanted to shore up their defenses. A Justin Braun drive around the half hour mark was the best chance for about 20 minutes. Neither side was keeping possession well, and the play was getting a tad physical, seeing Jorge Flores enter the book after a reckless tackle on Ekpo.
A bit of history was made near halftime, as the Crew conceded their first goal from the Northeast corner flag since the inception of the Nordecke in 2008. Defender Andrew Boyens rose over both Chad Marshall and Tommy Heinemann to power a header into the net from a Heath Pearce corner to the back post. A dream end to a dream half for the visitors, and more defensive questions for the home side going into the locker rooms.
Chivas was inches away from putting the game to bed just after halftime, as Jorge Flores was dared to shoot from just outside the box, and his curling shot beat William Hesmer, but hit the inside of post and bounced out of harms way. Dreadfully unlucky for Flores and Chivas and a lifeline was bestowed upon the home team, who looked like conceding more goals.
Then in a crazy turn of events, Andres Mendoza was given not one, not two, but three one-on-one chances. The first produced a fine save by Dan Kennedy, who parried the ball out for a corner in minute 50. A minute later, Mendoza again found space as result of some persistence by Eddie Gaven, who headed Mendoza through. This time, Andrew Boyens made a perfectly timed tackle to dispossess Mendoza, and the danger was thought to be passed.
Chivas got the ball and began to keep possession when the ball was passed to Simon Elliot, who was put under some pressure by Tommy Heinemann. Elliot, with Chivas defenders alone to his right and left made a stunning error, passing it backwards right into the path of Mendoza, who must not have believed his fortune. The third time was the charm, and he buried his second of the match with a fine shot with his favored left foot. His celebration of putting the ball under his shirt and his thumb in his mouth may have equaled the feeling that the under pressure striker has been reborn with his performance.
The celebrations were short lived, as for the third time Chivas put itself into the lead, as Jorge Flores found a lot of room in the area after Ben Zemanski played the young forward through. Flores' left foot strike was partially handled by William Hesmer, but the ball found the back of the net nonetheless. Three to two for the visitors, again in the lead. Hopes of a point for the Crew looked shot, as Chivas would not be denied.
Give credit to the home side however, as its comeback was completed in rapid fashion after going down for the third time. Tommy Heinemann forced a save out of Kennedy after a nice ball by Ekpo. Eddie Gaven collected the rebound, and his shot deflected high into air. The ball stayed in the air for what seemed like eternity, and when it did come down Emmanuel Ekpo was there. The midfielder brought the ball down and in a sublime piece of close control was able to get a shot off, and leveled the score again for the Crew. There was a hint of offside on the Nigerian on the shot by Gaven, but the assistant kept his flag down.
For the fifth time this season, the Crew found itself a man up in the 69th minute as Jorge Flores was given his marching orders after bringing down Eddie Gaven after Gaven had beaten Flores with a quick one two. The first sub was made soon after, with Mendoza, on a hat trick, made way for Jeff Cunningham. The Peruvian immediately walked into the locker room, showering and then leaving the stadium.
Just into extra time, Cunningham had a chance to cap an incredible game with his 133rd MLS goal, but once again Ante Razic came to the aid of his goalkeeper, who was beaten to the ball by Cunningham from a flick on by Eddie Gaven. Cunningham got his head to the ball, but Razic cleared the ball before the goal line. That was as close as the home side would come to a winner, even with center half Andy Iro coming on to play as a target man deep into stoppage time. The 9431 in attendance on “Dollar Draft” night were given a excellent show of attacking football. Both teams can reflect on their defensive mistakes and quality moments in attack in equal measure, but the Crew fans will be thankful that for at least one night, the home attack shined.
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