Photo by ISIPhotos.com
By JOEY SAMUEL
CHESTER, Pa. — Despite being down to ten men, and getting dominated in possession for large parts of the second half, Eddie Gaven gave the Columbus Crew just what they needed to make up ground in the ever-tightening Eastern Conference playoff race.
Gaven scored nearly five minutes into stoppage time to give Columbus a 2-1 road win over the Philadelphia Union at PPL Park on Wednesday night.
Both the Union and the Crew scored goals off set pieces during the first half. Carlos Valdes's free kick was deflected by a wall of Crew defenders and it beat goalkeeper Matt Lampson, who was making his first start for Columbus. The Crew answered 12 minutes later when Federico Higuain's free kick was headed in by Josh Williams.
In the second half, Williams was sent off after an altercation with the Union's Antoine Hoppenot. The Union responded by bringing on Freddy Adu and creating waves of pressure, but the Crew defense held strong. And late into stoppage time, Gaven scored on a perfectly-executed counterattack to give the Crew a 2-1 win and all three points.
"In the 70th minute, the game changed because of a red card," said Crew coach Robert Warzycha. "We defended well. Actually they had plenty of shots, which we blocked, but at the end of the game you have a player on the field who can really change the game, and he did."
It was a contest in which one team's playoff hopes were entirely on the line, and another was hoping to rack up more points in what is becoming a legitimate postseason push.
The latter team, Columbus, was the one that ended up with the win, despite Philadelphia controlling 60 percent of possession over the course of the game. Now, the Crew sit just two points back of DC United for one of the five playoff spots from the East, and they even have a game in hand.
The Union, on the other hand, saw their hopes essentially extinguished by the loss. They needed all three points, yet they ended up earning none.
"It's just a cruel game sometimes," Union manager John Hackworth said. "To have that much of the play, to have that many shots, that many opportunities, to go up a man for the final 20 minutes and not get a result out of that game, is mind-boggling. But that is this game sometimes."
Philadelphia now find themselves 16 points out of a playoff spot, with teams like Columbus and the Montreal Impact above them in the standings as well.
"We've got a lot of ground to catch up," said Union midfielder Brian Carroll. "It's very difficult but we have to keep fighting and playing until the very end in order to have confidence in ourselves, in each other, as a group for the rest of this year and for next year."
After beating the team directly below them in the standings, Columbus will now turn their attention to the team directly above them in the Montreal Impact, who they host on Saturday. Philadelphia, meanwhile, travel up I-95 to face the New England Revolution.
Here are the match highlights:
What are your thoughts on the match? Will the Crew continue this strong form and turn it into a playoff spot? Are the Union's postseason hopes completely gone?
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