The Crew wanted three points to keep their hot streak going. The Philadelphia Union were trying to get their first win since July. With both teams with heavy legs from a very packed schedule, it looked like it might fizzle into a draw as the game wore on. Despite a 2nd half red card on the Crew, late Federico Higuain heroics allowed the black and gold to escape with a 2-1 win.
Matt Lampson was the first of two changes in the team as he earned his first start in place of the injured Andy Gruenebaum. Injuries also forced in Danny O'Rourke in the heart of the defense with Chad Marshall. The rest of the back line was unchanged. Chris Birchall reentered the lineup in midfield.
The game started slowly with both teams fatigued from recent midweek matches. Neither team would be able to develop a rhythm or build with any possession. The Crew would fire off a single shot in the first 25 minutes of the game. The Union managed two shots, with one on target.
The first goal would come out of nearly nothing. In the 29th minute, the Union found space with Michael Farfan driving towards the Crew goal. Chris Birchall clipped Farfan to set up a free kick from nearly 30 yards out. Victor Valdes' kick took a deflection off of Eddie Gaven and wrong footed Matt Lampson to make it 1-0.
The goal would serve as a wake up call for the listless Columbus team. Defensive pressure would force several Philadelphia turnovers at midfield. Dilly Duka would find some space after the turnover and force a Sheanon Williams foul. Higuain sent in an excellent bending ball that Josh Williams headed home in the 41st minute to tie the game at 1-1.
The Crew and the Union would have a couple chances before halftime. A poor clearance off a long throw by Chad Marshall fell right to Michael Farfan, but it was cleared. The rebound shot by Amobi Akuga would go wide. On the other end, Duka would whip in an early cross from the left side that found an unmarked Gaven on the back post but the shot went high.
The game would stretch out as the Crew would dive for a second goal and the Union looked to counter. The game would change in 68th minute. The goal scorer, Williams would push out against Union sub Antoine Hoppenot in front of the assistant referee. He would draw a red card for the shove. Hoppenot who pushed at a taunting Danny O'Rourke would earn a yellow.
Down to 10 men, the Crew would look to steal a point for the remaining 20 plus minutes with a defense first posture. The Union, sensing a win was in their grasp, camped out in front of Matt Lampson's goal.
The home side would fire off 13 shots while up a man. The Columbus defense would block 7 of the attempts to keep the pressure off of Lampson. Only two Michael Farfan shots would get to the keeper. The Union pressed hard for the winning goal, but would not find it.
The Crew would hold on to the tie deep into stoppage time when Higuain would work his magic, twice. Higuain took a bouncing header and got off two shots on Philly keeper Zac MacMath, the second glancing off the crossbar.
He'd get another chance within a minute. After dodging an immediate Philly counter. Lampson launched a goal kick to midfield that skipped to Higuain. He danced through the Philly defense and found a streaking Justin Meram who's shot was clipped wide to an unmarked Eddie Gaven. The bearded one calmly slotted home the stoppage time winner.
The Crew escaped with three points from a game where heavy legs and a red card could have caused a loss. They now stand at 11-8-6 with 39 points. They are still 7th in the Eastern Conference, but they are a mere two points behind D.C. United and the Chicago Fire and the playoffs. Montreal heads to Crew Stadium on Saturday. The 6th spot in the east is at stake. The game kicks off at 7:30.