See what Gregg Berhalter has to say after Columbus Crew SC’s win over the San Jose Earthquakes.Posted by Massive Report on Saturday, April 28, 2018
The four-game winless streak is over for Columbus Crew SC, but the team had to scrape and claw past a spirited San Jose Earthquakes team that was looking to break its own run of bad form. Goals from Harrison Afful and injury-returnee Mike Grella provided the edge in the 2-1 win.
Columbus turned the edge in chances into the first goal in the 28th minute. Milton Valenzuela sent a pass into Federico Higuain as he sat in a pocket of space in the Quakes defense. The room allowed him to swing the ball wide to Afful, who ripped a shot from wide and by Andrew Tarbell to give Columbus the lead.
Crew SC had a couple chances as halftime approached with Niko Hansen on the end of both. The winger acrobatically clipped a volley over the crossbar off a Pedro Santos corner in the 35th and headed a Santos left-sided cross wide of goal.
As the half wound down, the momentum turned and the Earthquakes had the better of the play the last 10 minutes of the first 45, but struggled to break down the Crew SC defense until the Black & Gold suffered a defensive breakdown that let the visitors into the game.
Just before first half stoppage time, Florian Jungworth sent in an uncontested early cross into the Columbus penalty area. Danny Hoesen broke free and found space between Lalas Abubakar and Milton Valenzuela and nodded the ball across goal to even the score.
It was the second straight week that Crew SC gave up a goal just before halftime to tie the after having the better of play throughout.
Neither side held the upper hand throughout the second half. Columbus brought numbers forward and were able to get off four shots in the first 15 minutes coming out of the locker room, but only Valenzuela’s 51st minute chance that was blocked tested the Quakes while the visitors were able to counter quickly, but struggled to turn it into chances that tested Crew SC keeper Zack Steffen.
Columbus nearly grabbed the lead in the 78th minute with a chance in transition. Afful had open space to probe the Quakes’ right side and sent in a perfect cross. Higuain ran through the penalty box and got on the end of the pass, but his header was driven into the ground but parried over the ball by Tarbell.
Crew SC found the game winner through super sub Grella to finish off the move. With the game getting stretched and the Quakes recovering, Santos swung a ball over to Grella on the left wing. He then cut into the penalty box, paused to clear the defender and finished near post. It was a veteran finish on a team that had been lacking a steady presence in front of goal.
San Jose poured numbers forward, but the Crew SC defense held firm. Led by Jonathan Mensah, the team kept the visiting Quakes to two low percentage shots in the waining minutes to secure the first win in nearly a month.
330 Days 19 Minutes
Grella had a long road to recovery. He made his last MLS appearance on June 3rd last year for the New York Red Bulls and hadn’t scored since late 2016. After trying to play through the pain of his cartilage knee injury, surgery and finding his footing with a new team. It was 330 days between MLS appearances, but it only took 19 minutes to get his first Crew SC goal.
One Shot Club
It was a fine defensive performance from Columbus. Crew SC gave up a single shot on goal for the third time this season. Each time they’ve allowed it to be a goal. The Chicago Fire and D.C. United both turned their single-shot performance against Columbus into 1-0 wins. The Earthquakes defense wasn’t as stout, and Columbus was finally rewarded for their defensive prowess.
Crew SC finished their short two-game home stand with a a win and a tie, pulling their record to 4-3-2 on the year. At 13 points, the Black & Gold have pulled back to fourth place in the Eastern Conference for the moment.
The next game will provide a tougher test, as Columbus heads on the road to face Seattle next Saturday at 4 p.m. ET. The Sounders have struggled early this season, as injuries have taken their toll, but Century Link Field provides an environment that Crew SC have struggled with.