Sam Fahmi/Massive Report
The Cardiac Crew strike again.
Columbus sure is living up to its recently bestowed nickname.
The Cardiac Crew came through late once again, this time scoring in the 91st minute to steal a home point against Sporting Kansas City, as Eddie Gaven's goal negated C.J. Sapong's early header.
The tie keeps Columbus in playoff contention, but it was not the result they were hoping for. They remain one point behind the Houston Dynamo for the fifth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Columbus' starting XI stayed the same from last week's win against the Philadelphia Union, except for Justin Meram replacing the suspended Danny O'Rourke. Chris Birchall slid over to the middle, allowing Meram to play on the right wing. Kansas City lined up in their regular 4-3-3 formation.
Forward Jairo Arrieta had two prime chances to put the Crew in front in the 6th minute. Left-back Josh Williams played Arrieta through on goal. Kansas City goalie Jimmy Nielsen came out and made an excellent save on Arrieta's first attempt, but he parried the ball straight back to the Costa Rican. Arrieta's follow up was again excellently saved by Nielsen, who quickly dove down to his left, allowing his defense to clear the ball.
However, it was Sporting who took the early lead. In the 10th minute, Graham Zusi's cross from the right wing took a deflection off Julius James. Chad Marshall, marking C.J. Sapong in the box, awkwardly stepped toward the ball, resulting in him being way out of position and having no chance for a clearance. Sapong's header banged off the left post and back into the air. Luckily for Sapong, the ball bounced straight back to him, and he headed his second effort into the right side netting.
Columbus almost managed to equalize before the break, but Federico Higuain's 40th minute free kick was pawed away by Nielsen. Arrieta also had another great scoring chance in the 64th, cutting back to his right foot in the box before letting loose a bender of a shot that went right to Nielsen.
Kansas City nearly doubled their lead in the 83rd minute. Roger Espinoza ripped a left-footed shot from distance, forcing Crew goalie Andy Gruenebaum to make a diving save.
The Crew's playoffs chances were slowly slipping away into stoppage time. Surely, they could not pull out another late goal. Eddie Gaven thought otherwise. Substitute Emilio Renteria sent in a cross from the right flank and found an open, leaping Gaven. Gaven directed his header straight down toward the near post, beating Nielsen, who only managed hit the ball into his own net after it had crossed the line. Gaven's goal secured a 1-1 tie and also secured the new nickname for this 2012 Columbus Crew team: Cardiac Crew.