Rogers lifts Crew in injury time.
Columbus came out firing from the opening whistle, looking hungry for the win as the midfield took control of the game. The first chance of the game on five minutes, as a perfectly measured long ball from Eric Brunner found Robbie Rogers, who took the ball inside before firing inches over the crossbar.
Columbus continued to see most of the ball throughout the first 20 minutes of the game and Rogers was played through by a defense-splitting pass from Guillermo Barros Schelotto, but could keep his feet, allowing Seth Sinovic to clear. However, it was New Englandwho took a surprise lead. The visitors combined for a beautiful one-touch passing move up the left flank to set up Zak Boggs, who beat Frankie Hejduk before firing a dipping shot, which squirmed through the arms of Will Hesmer and into the goal to give New England the lead in the 29th.
Despite going behind, the Crew came out firing from the kickoff and as a result New England’s lead would last for only two minutes. A poor clearance from Cory Gibbs landed right at the feet of Eddie Gaven, who drove it past Preston Burpo and into the far corner to equalize for the home team in the 31st minute.
The equalizer fired up Columbus, and soon they would find themselves 2-1 up. Gino Padula, looking very good despite just returning from injury, found Brian Carroll, who in turn released Robbie Rogers down the left flank. Rogers fired a low cross into the box looking for Schelotto, only to have it turned in prematurely by Gibbs to give Columbus a 35th minute lead.
Rogers was again at the center of play as Columbus looked to put more goals past New England, and his bending cross from the left landed just behind the onrushing Eddie Gaven. New England was not out of it though, and they showed it with the fourth goal in eleven minutes. A perfectly placed wall pass from Kheli Dube found Zak Boggs, who coolly finished past Hesmer for his second goal of the game, giving the visitors their equalizer five minutes from the half, which finished without any more serious chances for either side.
Despite Columbus’ monopoly on possession, poor defensive play had let an incisive New England side in twice and Robert Warzycha’s side needed to tighten up their game in order to prevent another goal. Eddie Gaven was involved again early on as he went on a strong run to the byline to serve the ball up to Rogers, who played it right back to Gaven, only for the right winger’s toe poke to roll right into Burpo’s arms.
After a few exciting moments early in the second half, the game settled down until just after the hour mark, when Rogers stripped Seth Sinovic near the endline and narrowly missed the onrushing Lenhart with a ball into the middle. Immediately after, Schelotto played the role of creator, finding Gaven with a perfectly weighted pass. However, Burpo was equal to Gaven, not only denying his first attempt, but also pushing away the follow-up.
The Crew continued to pile on the pressure as the game wore on, as Lenhart turned Barnes inside-out to go through on goal, only for his finish to be turned away by Burpo. Soon after, Schelotto orchestrated some well-worked build up play, but both Gaven and Lenhart attempted to get on the final cross, allowing New England to once again clear their lines.
With 15 minutes to go, New England tried to surprise Columbus once again. Sainey Nyassi drew a foul on the right side and the resulting free kick from Chris Tierney nearly connected, but Gaven was aware to head it behind for a corner. Nyassi continued to cause problems for the Crew defense, and Adam Moffat was the first in the referee’s book for a shirt tug that brought Nyassi down just outside the 18. Tierney was able to curling the resulting free kick low around the wall, but Hesmer was equal to it, diving low to his right to make the save. New England had a nice spell of pressure, and Dube set up Boggs with a perfect touch, but a hat-trick was not on the cards for the rookie, who fired wide on the half-valley.
With ten minutes left, Columbus started to pile on the pressure in search of the equalizer. Warzycha opted to swap a defender for a striker, putting Jason Garey on in place of Gino Padula and Emmanuel Ekpo in place of Adam Moffat. Ekpo made an impact almost immediately after coming on, linking up well with Schelotto, though the Argentine veteran made the wrong pass, allowing New England to clear.
Columbus’ offensive machine continued to work, as Hejduk crossed for Lenhart after some well-worked play from Schelotto, only to see the striker head wide. Soon after, Eddie Gaven was denied a spectacular goal when he backheeled a bouncing ball in the box, only to be denied by the crossbar, the best chance out of a series that Columbus had in the final minutes of the game. Robert Warzycha opted to make a straight swap, Sergio Herrera for Lenhart, as he and his team were determined to find the winner.
Just as it looked like the visitors might hold on for the win, the Crew finally managed to break through. In the first minute of stoppage time, Schelotto floated a cross for Jason Garey, who forced it towards goal with a downward header. Although Barnes was able to clear the initial header of the line, neither he nor Burpo could do anything about Robbie Rogers’ followup, which he blasted into the net to give Columbus the victory, though Rogers was booked for his ensuing celebration. In a desparate attempt to leave with one point, Steve Nicol made his only substitution of the game, putting on Zack Schilawski in place of Barnes. Despite having grabbed the late winner, Columbus looked for more in the five minutes of stoppage time, with the upright denying Gaven his second goal of the game and Jason Garey firing a great chance into the side netting, but in the end, it was still Columbus who emerged with a deserved victory.
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