The Columbus Crew are closing in on another Supporters Shield, after dispatching the challenge from one of the Western Conference's top teams, the Los Angeles Galaxy, with a 2-0 victory.
The Supporters Shield is the trophy that rewards the team with the best regular season record in the league with home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
Even before the match kicked off, the Galaxy were missing a crucial element of their team, as in injured David Beckham remained in Los Angeles.
Yet the Columbus Crew rolled out a young lineup, due in part to a strategy of rest and rotation for players, given that the club has played a number of extra games lately.
Steven Lenhart and Emilio Renteria were up front in the attack for the Crew.
However, the Galaxy had a youngster of their own, Bryan Jordan, as forward alongside Edson Buddle. Jordan had an early chance snuffed out by the Crew defense when he received a pass from Landon Donovan, but couldn't break past the Columbus backline.
It was a cagey match in the early going as neither side could really get going.
Spurred on by their home fans, the Crew began to gain a slight edge, led by the veteran Frankie Hejduk.
Hejduk's dogged play, however, crossed a line when he was booked for a challange on Landon Donovan.
The Crew's advantage in possession paid off when they were able to take advantage of a momentary Galaxy weakness in the 33rd minute. Stefani Miglioranzi, a former Crew midfielder, was injured in an Emmanuel Ekpo challenge. While the Galaxy redied a substitution, Ekpo darted forward and struck a cross that Eddie Gaven was able to direct on goal for a 1-0 lead.
That remained the score until the half.
Galaxy coach Bruce Arena brought on Alan Gordon in the second half, but the rangy striker could do little as both he and Buddle were starved of service for long stretches.
Instead, it was the starlets of the Crew that notched the second goal ten minutes into the second half on a counter, when Lenhart and Renteria combined for a goal.
Renteria put in the first effort, and though goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts was able to stop that attempt, he wasn't able to control the ball. Lenhart pounced on the chance, putting the ball into the net for the second goal.
From then on, the match was the Crew playing cagey soccer and the Galaxy never quite getting out of second gear to threaten any sort of comeback.
LA was able to create the odd chance, as midfielder Birchall banged a shot off the post in the 68th minute, but in general, the Crew clamped down on every attack and protected their advantage.
The three points gained by the Crew mean that the club moved into sole possession of the lead in the regular season standings.
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