Through halftime the Crew appeared to be playing to script. They gave up first half goal to Marco Di Vaio and the offense struggled to create. The seven game winless streak was threatening to extend to eight. The second half was an entirely different game. Backed by a stellar performance by goalkeeper Steve Clark, a suddenly hungry Columbus offense attacked and Bernardo Anor uncorked two thunderous strikes from distance to give the Crew their first win since May 24th.
After struggling through the first half against Sporting Kansas City on Wednesday, the Crew came out strong against Montreal. The Impact are winless on the road in 2014 and it showed during the opening minutes. Columbus controlled the ball, but like much of the long winless streak, they failed to test the opposing goalkeeper.
With Columbus controlling the ball, Montreal's chances came on counterattacks. They found a perfect opportunity late in the first half on a Crew turnover.
Michael Parkhurst took a pass along the touchline and pushed forward. His pass to Anor was cutout by Justin Mapp. Mapp took a touch and found Di Vaio one on one with Giancarlo Gonzalez. The Italian evaded the tackle and put the shot past Clark to put the visitors up 1-0 in the 36th minute. The Crew struggled to respond heading into the break as they faced their third straight defeat in front of a restless and anxious crowd.
The Crew offense found their footing in the second half and quickly gave the crowd something to cheer for. Ethan Finlay finally had a chance to stretch the right side and fired in a cross that Adam Bedell redirected on goal in the 51st minute. Impact keeper Evan Bush was forced into a reaction save.
In the 54th minute, the Impact nearly ended any hope of a comeback as it nearly began. Justin Mapp quickly countered a Crew counterattack and pushed into space. Jack McInerney took Mapp's pass and bore down on Clark, but pushed his shot just wide of the Columbus goal and the margin remained one.
Sensing an opening, Columbus pressed quickly for a breakthrough and Bernardo Anor would find it moments later in the 56th. With the ball on the right side of the final third, Chad Barson collected a loose ball and tapped it to Tony Tchani. Tchani turned and found Anor at the top of the Montreal penalty area. Anor skipped a left footed shot past Bush to tie it and sent the stadium into rapturous celebration.
Columbus looked eager to seize the lead and complete the comeback, but it was the Impact that would come close in the following minutes. Montreal repeatedly forced Clark into point blank saves. First Felipe forced Clark to parry a shot wide for a corner. Monents later, Di Vaio and Andres Romero would force back to back acrobatic saves that kept the game knotted at one. Romero would test Clark from distance, but again he pushed the shot just beyond his goal.
After the Montreal onslaught, the Crew found the seams in the Impact defense. Sub Aaron Schoenfeld nodded down a header toward Anor near the center circle. The visitors were slow to close down space as Anor dribbled into the heart of the defense. He then uncorked a 25 yard right footed drive to give the Crew the lead.
With a rare lead to protect, the Crew defended in packs. Montreal pushed for a tying goal, but failed to win the possession battle against the home side and the Crew's ferocious defense kept the Impact to a single shot in the last 15 minutes, a Callum Malace attempt that screamed 2 yards over Clark's goal.
The win gave the Crew their first win since May 24th, a span of seven games. They have now scraped back into playoff contention and are tied for the last spot in the East with the Philadelphia Union and New England Revolution who they face at Gillette Stadium next Saturday evening.
A win doesn't solve the problems with this team, questions remain on where the goals will come from and the defense continues to give up some prime chances off of turnovers, but it does provide some confidence for a team needing some. It also gives suffering fans a bit of relief.