COLUMBUS, OH - MARCH 24: Emilio Renteria #20 of the Columbus Crew attempts to fend off the defense of Collen Warner #18 of the Montreal Impact while controlling the ball in the second half on March 24, 2012 at Crew Stadium in Columbus, Ohio. Columbus defeated Montreal 2-0. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
Columbus made the most of their home opener on Saturday afternoon, impressing upwards of 18,000 fans with a 2-0 defeat over the Montreal Impact.
In one of the roughest games of the early season, Montreal was forced to play with only ten men after a high elbow by defender Jeb Brovsky earned a red card in the 19th minute.
The Crew started in a 4-4-2 formation, with an offensive triangle consisting of Emilio Renteria, Olman Vargas, and Milovan Mirosevic leading the attack. Vargas' support up top drastically improved Columbus' possession and build-up play from their first game in Colorado. Vargas is willing to make the runs needed to win flick-on headers and is always crashing the box for crosses.
In the 28th minute, Renteria, after holding off multiple defenders, dribbled into the box where he was then illegally tackled. The referee awarded the penalty, which Milovan Mirosevic blasted in past Montreal goalie Donovan Ricketts for his first ever goal in MLS play.
More after the jump...Andy Gruenebuam, making his second consecutive start in goal for Columbus, made multiple saves throughout the match. However, the best save came in the 41st minute from Ricketts. Crew midfielder Eddie Gaven riffled a long-distance shot that was destined for the upper 90 if it weren't for Ricketts' leaping, stretched-out save.
A minute later, Impact midfielder Justin Mapp drilled the crossbar with a dipping effort that went right over Gruenebaum's leaping attempt of a save.
Vargas' stellar play from last week's scrimmages continue on Saturday, as he gave himself multiple chances to get on the scoreboard. His hard work finally paid off in the 66th minute. Renteria received the ball in midfield before sending a nice lead pass to left-back Shaun Francis. Francis' first-time cross found the head of Vargas, who attacked the ball with a purpose and buried it in the lower-left corner of the goal.
Both teams had a few more chances later in the game, but tremendous saves by both Ricketts and Gruenebaum kept the score at 2-0, allowing Columbus to pick up their first three points of the year while keeping Montreal at only one point after three games.