It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon in Ohio's capital city and a great day for a soccer game, but the play on the field was anything but in the first half for the Columbus Crew and Chivas USA. The Black and Gold did not disappoint the 17,043 fans at Columbus Crew Stadium with a dazzling second half, earning a 3-0 win and three more big points.
The best opportunity of the opening period didn't occur until the 38th minute when good movement from the Crew opened the Goat's defense. Playmaker Federico Higuain's one-time ball found forward Aaron Schoenfeld out wide. His cross teased through the six-yard box, but winger Ethan Finlay could not get to the ball with his far post run.
Columbus did not force Chivas goalkeeper Dan Kennedy into a save in the first half, but he did face Higuain from 12 yards out just before halftime. Referee Geoff Gamble judged that Schoenfeld was pushed down on a Crew corner and gave the Black and Gold a penalty kick in the 45th minute. The Crew's number 10 stepped up confidently, but drilled the spot kick off the crossbar.
In the second half, the Crew came out the aggressor and created early opportunities. It paid off just seven minutes into the half thanks to the right foot of Justin Meram.
The winger cut in from the left on his favored right foot and, when the Chivas defenders neglected to close down, fired a curling shot by Kennedy to give his team the 1-0 lead.
Just four minutes later, the Black and Gold came close to doubling their lead. Finlay sent a lofted cross into the box and Schoenfeld headed it towards goal, but Kennedy was up to the task this time, knocking it out for a corner.
Higuain forced another save from the goalkeeper in the 56th minute after Gehrig set him up at the top of the box. He unleashed a dangerous shot, but the diving Kennedy parried it away.
The Goats had their best chance to equalize in the 58th minute when second half substitute Marvin Chavez curled a shot by Clark from inside the penalty area, but the attempt went wide of the far post.
Just a minute later, Meram was at it again, this time capitalizing on a mistake by Chivas. Number nine jumped on a lazy pass across the middle of the field and took it towards the opponent's goal, firing a shot that beat Kennedy for his second strike of the day and two goal lead.
Meram was taken out of the game in the 66th minute to a standing ovation form the Crew faithful. His replacement, Bernardo Anor, got in on the action, heading home a cross from substitute Hector Jimenez five mintues after stepping on the field for a three-goal cushion.
Second half substitution Jairo Arrieta almost gave the Black and Gold their biggest lead of the season in the 87th minute. The forward battled for position with a defender on his back but was able to turn and get a shot away that forced Kennedy into another diving save.
With the victory, the Crew temporarily find themselves in a three-way tie for third place in the Eastern Conference. The New England Revolution could break that tie later today when they take on the Chicago Fire at home.
Columbus next takes to the pitch on Saturday, as they travel to take on the Houston Dynamo, a team they beat 3-0 at home just two weeks ago. Houston has since won two consecutive contests and sit just five points behind the Crew in the standings.