In one of my first interviews with then new Columbus Crew SC head coach Gregg Berhalter, he told me he wanted to make then Columbus Crew Stadium a fortress.
A year ago, the Black and Gold won nine of their 17 home matches. Crew SC began the year with a win and a loss at the renamed MAPFRE Stadium, but in the last two games - both three goal wins by Columbus - Crew SC may have established that fortress in their 4-1 defeat of the Philadelphia Union.
After creating chances early a week ago, Columbus adopted a similar strategy this week. This time, the Black and Gold capitalized thanks to a nice interchange between two of their front players.
After a relatively short clearance by Union goalkeeper John McCarthy that was won by Tony Tchani, Ethan Finlay place a cross on the chest of striker Kei Kamara. The veteran, playing in his 200th MLS game, brought the ball down before firing it into the net for the 1-0 lead.
Crew SC weren't content to rest up one and continued to push the pedal. Eleven minutes later, it was Finlay who got on the score sheet, his first of the year, as left back Waylon Francis placed a ball on his foot. The winger, who scored 11 goals a year ago, redirected the cross into the net and just like that it was 2-0 to the home side.
Finlay's opposite wing, Justin Meram, wasn't going to be outdone. Just before halftime, the winger turned U.S. national team player Maurice Edu and used his speed to get in the box before beating McCarthy with a powerful shot.
The game may have been done at the break, but the Black and Gold weren't playing as if that was the case. Crew SC came out in the second half creating chances and were unlucky not to increase the advantage early.
In the 64th minute, Eric Ayuk Mbu got one back for the Union. Forward C.J. Sapong got wide and sent a teasing ball into the penalty area. The youngster out jumped Francis for the header, beating goalkeeper Steve Clark for the first goal of his career, followed up by an acrobatic, albeit unnecessary, flip display.
Finlay, who has been waiting all season for a night like this, wasn't content with a two-goal lead. This time, Kamara turned provided, winning a 50/50 ball and playing the speedy Finlay in behind the defense. The winger only needed one touch to tuck it away for his second of the night and a 4-1 lead for the Black and Gold.
It was a great two-game home stand for Columbus, but now Crew SC head out on the road to take on rival D.C. United next Saturday night.