Columbus Crew SC closed their two-game home stand with a 3-2 victory over Sporting Kansas City Saturday night. Jack McInerney scored the winning goal in the 88th minute, his first for the club. It was the first time the team led after falling behind 0-1 and 1-2 earlier in the game.
The victory, combined with Wednesday’s 2-2 draw with New York City, puts the club in third place in the Eastern Conference. Coach Gregg Berhalter’s team now enters a road-heavy stretch of the schedule, with two home games in their next seven games leading up to the regular season finale at MAPFRE Stadium on October 25. Their final three games will be against the other teams in the top four in the Eastern Conference.
Columbus started with the same lineup they used on Wednesday, including new signing Harrison Afful at right back. Kansas City, meanwhile, made five changes to the group that was shocked in midweek with a 5-0 home loss to San Jose. Coach Peter Vermes started an entirely new left flank in his 4-3-3 formation, and his right flank featured two new players as well.
Marcel de Jong – one of the new players – opened the scoring first, setting up a stiff challenge for Columbus. In the 15th minute, Kansas City swept down the left flank. Crew SC’s defense was dragged out of shape by the attack, with Michael Parkhurst pulled left of goal forcing Harrison Afful to cover the near post. From that position, Kansas City defender Saad Abdul-Salaam fed the ball across to de Jong, unmarked at the far post for an easy tap-in.
Coming into the game, Kansas City had scored the game’s first goal 11 times. They were undefeated in those games, with eight victories and only three draws.
Saturday’s opening half hour – even aside from de Jong’s goal – was a rough period for the home team. Kansas City’s defense was supremely organized, shutting down Columbus attacks down the flanks with relative ease. Crew SC did not register a shot until the 26th minute, when Federico Higuain’s pressure on Kevin Ellis allowed him to slip a pass over to Kei Kamara. Kamara’s shot was saved by Tim Melia at the near post, however.
Columbus finally got their attack working in the final 15 minutes of the half, and it was Ethan Finlay who scored the team’s first goal. Harrison Afful started the sequence in space on the right flank, finding Federico Higuain with an early low cross above the penalty area. Higuain’s shot rattled off the crossbar and fell to Kei Kamara – who looked offside from a post-game analysis. Kamara controlled the ball at the left post, then passed across the goal mouth to Ethan Finlay. The goal’s finish was similar to that from de Jong, with Kansas City’s attention drawn to one side while the goal eventually game from the other.
Federico Higuain had the first scoring chance of the second half, but was unable to register a shot in the 52nd minute when he got the ball caught under his feet. Matt Besler did well to apply some clutch defensive pressure after Justin Meram picked out Higuain with a team-splitting pass from midfield.
While Columbus continued to apply offensive pressure to start the second half, it was Kansas City who jumped into the lead. On the second of two consecutive corner kicks at the hour mark, the visitors won the ball and counter-attacked clinically down the right side. Graham Zusi – another of Peter Vermes’ changes from midweek – controlled Matt Besler’s clearing header and sprinted down the flank before cutting inside Michael Parkhurst and blasting his shot past Steve Clark and into the far side netting.
Following the goal, coach Gregg Berhalter started sending on substitutes. Within the span of eight minutes, he had replaced Kei Kamara and Justin Meram with Cedrick Mabwati and Jack McInerney, two of the names who joined the team during the summer transfer window. Harrison Afful was also relieved by Hector Jimenez as the Ghanaian continues to build up match fitness.
The changes paid off, as Mabwati proved a thorn in the side of Kansas City on the left flank. A free kick from that side produced the equalizing goal in the 80th minute, as Federico Higuain’s effort was nodded on by Tyson Wahl and finished at the far post by Tony Tchani.
Columbus grabbed the late dramatic winner from Jack McInerney in the 88th minute. Although officially recorded as unassisted, the goal was a product of Federico Higuain. Michael Parkhurst split the Kansas City shape with a well-directed pass, dropping the ball over Higuain’s right shoulder to the right of goal. Higuain, having missed a similar shot earlier in the half, this time put the ball close enough that Melia was forced to parry. The ball trickled to the far post, where McInerney was waiting to pounce.
The victory is the eighth home win of the season, and the first over Kansas City since 2011. With three home games remaining, the team is within reach of at least matching last year’s 9-4-4 record. Game-for-game, Columbus is five points ahead of last year’s pace.
The team’s next game will be on Saturday when they make their first visit to Yankee Stadium and New York City. They next return home to face FC Dallas on Labor Day weekend before trips to Philadelphia and Washington, DC.
Timeline of events
4′ Corner kick, Kansas City (right side – headed clear by Kamara)
6′ Corner kick, Kansas City (right side – headed clear by Parkhurst)
10′ Corner kick, Columbus (right side – headed clear by Dwyer)
15′ 0-1 Marcel de Jong (Saad Abdul-Salaam, Dominic Dwyer)
17′ Corner kick, Columbus (left side – punched clear by Melia)
33′ Caution, Dominic Dwyer (dangerous tackle on Tony Tchani)
35′ 1-1 Ethan Finlay (Kei Kamara)
39′ Caution, Jimmy Medranda (professional foul on Ethan Finlay)
42′ Corner kick, Columbus (left side – punched by Melia)
51′ Corner kick, Columbus (right side – no shot taken)
57′ Amadou Dia replaces Jimmy Medranda
57′ Corner kick, Columbus (right side – Kamara header blocked by Abdul-Salaam)
61′ Corner kick, Columbus (left side – Melia punches over the crossbar)
62′ Corner kick, Columbus (right side – headed clear by Kansas City)
63′ 1-2 Graham Zusi (Matt Besler)
64′ Jack McInerney replaces Justin Meram
70′ Hector Jimenez replaces Harrison Afful
72′ Cedrick Mabwati replaces Kei Kamara
78′ Chance Myers replaces Jacob Peterson
79′ Caution, Mikey Lopez (dangerous tackle on Waylon Francis)
80′ 2-2 Tony Tchani (Tyson Wahl, Federico Higuain)
84′ Corner kick, Columbus (left side – short, no shot taken)
85′ Corner kick, Kansas City (left side – headed clear by Wahl)
88′ 3-2 Jack McInerney (unassisted)
90′ Krisztian Nemeth replaces Marcel de Jong
92+ Caution, Jack McInerney (delay of game)
Columbus Crew SC
Steve Clark, Harrison Afful (Hector Jimenez 70′), Michael Parkhurst, Tyson Wahl, Waylon Francis, Wil Trapp, Tony Tchani, Ethan Finlay, Federico Higuain, Justin Meram (Jack McInerney 64′), Kei Kamara (Cedrick Mabwati 72′)
Brad Stuver, Chris Klute, Kevan George, Mohammed Saeid
Sporting Kansas City
Tim Melia, Saad Abdul-Salaam, Kevin Ellis, Matt Besler, Jimmy Medranda (Amadou Dia 57′), Graham Zusi, Paulo Nagamura, Mikey Lopez, Jacob Peterson (Chance Myers 78′), Dominic Dwyer, Marcel de Jong (Krisztian Nemeth 89′)
Jon Kempin, Erik Palmer-Brown, Seth Sinovic, Connor Hallisey