Crew end group stage impressively.The Columbus Crew went into Thursday night's fixture with one eye on their upcoming match against the Philadelphia Union Sunday and the other eye on the New York Red Bulls' final match against the New England Revolution, so it was unsurprising to see a slow start by the Black and Gold. But in the end they were just too much for a helpless Joe Public side.
The island club leaves the competition with just one point out of six matches. The Trinidadian side had no answer for the quality and quantity of the visitors' attacking options, and could have easily conceded two or three more goals.
The first half started sloppily, as neither team took early control. With both sides unable to create much of anything remotely threatening, the best early chance fell to Gason Gregory for the home side, but his shot was well wide left to Andy Greuebaum's goal. That chance seemed to spark the Crew, as they took the lead just a few minutes later.
After a good bit of possession, Duncan Oughton fed Crew striker Jason Garey, who had drifted out wide. He whipped in a perfectly weighted cross to Andres Mendoza, who was shockingly left unmarked inside the six yard box. “El Condor's” snap-down header was placed into the far post side netting, giving Joe Public keeper Glenroy Samuel no chance.
The pace slowed after the goal, as it looked like the visitors were content with just the one goal. However, in the 25th minute, controversial refereeing led to Joe Public's equalizer.
After both teams traded possession in the mid third, the dangerous Gregory chased onto a long ball and dribbled his way into the penalty area. Crew defender Josh Williams, making just his second appearance with the club, won the ball and nudged Gregory, who went to ground. The referee, inexplicably, pointed to the spot, judging that Williams had fouled.
Then, with a few Crew players screaming in protest, he consulted with the near side assistant referee and appeared to overturn his decision. Crew keeper Andy Greuebaum quickly cleared and the counter looked to be on, but once again the whistle blew and the referee brought them back, awarding the penalty. Up stepped skipper Trent Noel, who coolly slotted home the spot kick to level the match.
Once again, the pace of play slowed, as the visitors seemed shell-shocked to be drawn level. The Black and Gold would reestablish themselves soon enough, and could have regained their lead on 35 minutes, but Mendoza's second ball across was too long after Dilly Duka found Mendoza beyond the far post, again unmarked.
Seven minutes later, a long range effort by the lively Peruvian took a nasty deflection, but Lions keeper Samuel made a remarkable reflex save after being wrong-footed by the deflection to deny Mendoza a brace.
Just two minutes later the Crew again narrowly missed, as this time Crew captain Duncan Oughton's effort skimmed the far post after a excellent bit of vision and passing by Dilly Duka. The winger's cut-back was perfect and deserved a finish, but the Kiwi could not oblige.
The visitors started the brightest after the break, as once again Dilly Duka showcased his vision, this time laying it off to half time substitute Emilio Renteria, who came in for Andres Mendoza. The Venezuelan's shot in the 47th minute was blocked out for a corner, and off the resulting corner the Crew took the lead.
The corner was played short to Leandre Griffit, who beat his marker to the end line and lofted a ball into the box, which defender Josh Williams rose to meet well, and his header was blocked by the outstretched arm of his marker. Once again, the referee did not hesitate to point to the spot, and up stepped Renteria, who's powerful spot kick nearly tore a hole in the bottom corner netting.
The Crew back line promptly was exposed after the restart, first by Lions skipper Noel in the 51st minute and then dangerous wing man Hayden Tinto a minute later, but neither of their efforts really tested Andy Greuebaum, who had a relatively quiet night in goal. A quiet period came about after the pair of Joe Public chances, with another weak effort, this time by Gason Gregory the only true chance for nearly 20 minutes, as Columbus looked to keep possession and retain their one goal advantage.
Speedy Joe Public sub Kerry Baptiste was played through in the 73rd minute, but he could not take the chance, and that would be the last meaningful chance the Eastern Lions would have. The Crew began to dominate, and were unlucky not to score as a chance fell kindly to Oughton, but he could not finish at the second time of asking in the 79th.
Finally, the visitors sealed the game not 90 seconds later, as sloppy defending allowed Emilio Renteria to latch onto the ball with just the keeper to beat, and he did so with another blast that was swerving and dipping, again leaving keeper Glenroy Samuel helpless.
In stoppage time the Crew added a fourth through some nice unselfish play and a lightning counter attack. A Joe Public corner was ping-ponging around the area until Dilly Duka, one of the smallest players on the pitch, cleared it wide to Renteria. The diminutive Venezuelan bulldozed his way by one marker, and, confronted with another, found a hard-charging Duka all by his lonesome about 30 yards out. But instead of driving towards goal, he simply played Oughton through with a beautiful back heel flick. This time, the veteran midfielder was able to keep his effort on target, and it found its way into the back of the net. His goal was met with loud cheers by the Crew bench, heard clearly ringing through the stadium due to the minuscule crowd size.
The referee decided to end the fixture on that note, and at full time the Crew won their last group stage match in impressive fashion. However, the news was not all positive, as they soon found out that the New York had clinched the Eastern Conference with a 2-0 victory over New England. That results also makes the Black and Gold's home finale against Philadelphia essentially a warm-up contest for the playoffs, as the Crew can place no better and no worst than second in the Eastern Conference.
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