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VAR and missed penalty kicks can’t prevent Columbus Crew SC from victory

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The Black & Gold got another three points at home, despite some strange events.

Sam Fahmi

Columbus Crew SC head coach Gregg Berhalter talks after his team's win over the LA Galaxy.

Posted by Massive Report on Wednesday, August 23, 2017

After a tough and gritty 1-1 draw at Orlando City on Saturday, Columbus Crew SC returned home Wednesday night to face an LA Galaxy side that had not played in 10 days.

Despite the lack of rest, the Black & Gold needed three points at MAPFRE Stadium and got them, but not without making it difficult for itself in a 2-0 victory.

Crew SC came out like a house on fire, back in the more offensive-mind and familiar 4-2-3-1 formation.

Just two minutes in, forward Ola Kamara was through on goal, rounding goalkeeper Jon Kempin. From a tight angle, Kamara cut it back to winger Justin Meram whose touch let him down and the early chance went for naught.

New Designated Player Pedro Santos, who made his MAPFRE Stadium debut and first start, began to show his class in the ninth minute. The winger fired a low shot that forced Kempin to the ground to make a save. The LA goalkeeper gave up a rebound, but no Columbus player was there to clean up.

The match got interesting in the 17th minute, beginning a stretch of 10 minutes with three video reviews.

A long ball from defender Josh Williams found Santos rushing in behind the Galaxy defense. Left back Ashley Cole came sliding in at the top of the penalty box and the foul was called and red card given.

Center referee Sorin Stoica went to the video review screen after suggestion from VAR Hilario Grajeda, but kept the decision as called.

In the 21st minute, Stoica called another Crew SC foul at the top of the box. This time, he listened to the suggestion of Grajeda, awarding the Black & Gold a penalty kick.

Federico Higuain, making his first appearance for Columbus since July 1, stepped up but fired a low, weak shot that Kempin saved.

It appeared the Galaxy opened the scoring in the 26th minute on a header from Daniel Steres, but video review was again on the Black & Gold’s side, calling Joao Pedro offside.

Just before halftime, the scoring was opened, but this time by Kamara and Crew SC.

Santos cut inside on a dribble towards the middle of the field and fired a through ball into the box. Kamara was the first to pass, touching it over Kempin for the 1-0 advantage at the break.

The frantic pace of the first half did not carry over to the second. Aside from a series of yellow cards, there was not much in the way of action until the 73rd minute when second half substitution Cristian Martinez was free in the penalty box, but curled his shot wide.

Just six minutes later and Columbus was awarded another penalty kick opportunity, this foul drawn by Kamara on Kempin and not reviewed. Ola stepped up and hit the attempt well, but once again it was the LA goalkeeper that made the stop.

With Crew SC hanging on as the teams entered stoppage time, Meram once again came up big.

Central midfielder Mohammed Abu’s headed pass was redirected one time by second half substitute Kekuta Manneh right into the path of Meram. The winger dribbled into the box and rifled a shot by Kempin to seal all three points.

VAR saves the day

On Saturday against Orlando, video review went against Crew SC when, upon further review, Harrison Afful was sent off for an elbow to an OCSC player.

In the midweek encounter, the three calls that went to review all were in Columbus’ favor.

The first was the decision to send off Ashley Cole, who looked to at least get some of the ball. The second came in giving a penalty kick that was a very close call. The final one came when disallowing the Galaxy’s goal, keeping the game scoreless.

The rhythm of the match was ruined in the first 45 minutes due to the reviews, but when it works in the Black & Gold’s favor, you won’t hear anyone complaining.

dos penalty kick misses

It’s not often you see two spot kicks awarded in one match. It’s even more rare to see one team miss both opportunities in a game.

While it could be argued that Higuain’s attempt could have been better hit, Kamara’s second half effort was about what you want, but Kempin was up to the challenge.

Of course Kempin is no stranger to penalty kicks.

He was brought of the bench for Sporting Kansas City in the 2015 MLS Cup playoffs and was a part of the 7-6 shootout loss to the Portland Timbers. Kempin missed the final penalty attempt, allowing the Timbers to move on... and you know what happened five games later.

Return and debut

The Black & Gold benefitted from the return to the starting lineup of playmaker Higuain. He was joined in the lineup by the MAPFRE debutant Santos.

The duo showed quick chemistry, having only trained together for a few days. Santos registered the assist on the opening goal and Higuain was up to his old tricks.

If these two can stay on the field for the final seven games of the regular season, Columbus could once again become an offensive juggernaut in MLS.

What’s next

It’s another quick turn around for Crew SC -- we say that a lot. FC Dallas comes to Columbus on Saturday with both teams in need of points.

Dallas sits just inside the playoffs in the Western Conference, but has not won a game since July 22 after a 3-3 draw with the Houston Dynamo on Wednesday night.