Columbus Crew SC needed to settle after their lopsided loss last Sunday and the Philadelphia Union provided the perfect tonic. Kei Kamara recorded a brace while Crew SC seized their opportunities in the first half while holding on in the second 45 to get a 2-1 win.
Columbus would have loved nothing better than to get off to a fast start and they got their wish as they looked like the more dangerous side in the opening minutes as the visitors looked like the team in playoff position. They controlled the ball and created chances. It was a familiar story, a potent offense lead by Kamara and multiple chances to score.
While Kamara would get on the scoresheet, it was Harrison Afful who did the damage to Philadelphia throughout the first half. The Ghanian returned from international duty in fine form as he pushed forward into the final third. He was devastating as he whipped in several dangerous crosses.
The first to do damage was a deep cross in the 21st minute as he drove a cross that was deflected into the path of Kamara. The league leading scorer took his chance well as he drove the ball down towards goal and easily tallied goal number 19 on the year.
Goal 20 would come moments later, again from an Afful cross. The Crew SC offense probed down the right side with Federico Higuain dribbling into space and allowed the defense to collapse. He then found Afful pushed up on the right side of the Union box. He slid a grounded cross that found Kamara crashing on the far post. Another well timed finish made it 2-0 a little less a third of the way into the game.
The visitors would continue to control the ball, if not press the Union defense for the rest of the half. Columbus wouldn't have another shot on target as they held the ball 63% in the first half.
The second half was another familiar story as the Union would find chances and the defensive fragility that has plagued Crew SC all season would return. Philadelphia would start to connect a few passes together and interrupt the precision passing based Columbus offense.
The dormant Union offense would start to wake with rumors that they'd test the Columbus back line. Sapong would bounce a header that forced Steve Clark into an easy save at the 56th minute. Conor Casey would force another simple save in the 61st minute. The Crew SC defense was starting to give up slight chances.
The Union offense would finally turn rumor into fact and cut the lead in half in the 66th minute. With the ball on the right side, Sebastian LaToux would play a pass to substitute Casey. LaToux would move towards the goal, cutting inside of Casey and playing a one-two combination. Casey would take the ball back and feed LaToux on the right of the 18 yard box. The pass put the Crew SC defense into total disarray. LaToux would shed a Tony Tchani tackle and then feed Sapong with a centering pass for an easy finish.
With the Union pressing to equalize, Crew SC ceded the ball and the Union would get several chances to tie the game. Again finding space down the right, the tying goal nearly came from the everpresent LaToux. Tranquillo Barnetta found space in midfield and slipped an excellent through ball that forced the defense to rotate. La Toux fired a close range shot from the right side that Tyson Wahl clipped. It forced an excellent reaction saving tip by Clark off the bar.
Clark shepherded the shaky Crew SC defense, with a special Emanuel Pogatetz cameo, with the Union peppering the visitors with 13 second half shots, the same Crew SC defense that buckled and broke a week earlier.
Crew SC moved to 12-9-8, and 44 points to stay in third place with a pivotal trip to Washington to face the second place D.C. United. A victory would push them into second place, while a loss would invite pressure from the New England Revolution and Toronto FC. The victory over the Union gave the team their third road victory, with the road woes suddenly old news, Crew SC are gearing up for a very scrappy stretch run.