Bernardo Anor scored twice in the second half Saturday night, leading the Columbus Crew to a 2-1 victory over the Montreal Impact. The result provides temporary relief - and a glimmer of hope - for a team that had won just once in its previous 16 league games. Depending on results elsewhere this weekend, Columbus could start the week in a tie for the final playoff position in the Eastern Conference.
Both teams entered the game in need of a result. Montreal was rooted to the bottom of the Eastern Conference, with Columbus having slid down into seventh position. The teams had combined for just seven wins between their 36 games played.
Into this void the Crew started with the advantage, holding possession in attack for most of the opening five minutes. Even after the Impact calmed down and put together a few attacks of their own, the home team held the edge by most measures.
Troublingly, however, it was the visitors who put together the first credible scoring threat. Justin Mapp split Giancarlo Gonzalez and Waylon Francis in the 18th minute, receiving a precise pass from Marco Di Vaio as he emerged in space in front of goal. His left-footed shot was pulled wide of the post, ending the threat.
Bernardo Anor replied with a shot of his own three minutes later, taking a short pass from the overlapping Waylon Francis before shooting past the far post. Despite the Crew's early edge in possession, it was the first time that the home team had come close to scoring.
With the first half winding down toward halftime, the too-familiar pattern played itself out again in the 36th minute. Columbus found itself unable to hold possession in their own half, turning the ball over under pressure in the defensive third. Mapp found Di Vaio on the edge of the area, who held off the attention of Giancarlo Gonzalez and struck low across the goal to hand the visitors the lead.
In the second half, however, the Crew found a way to change the script. Where in earlier games they continued to press blindly and ineffectively, on this night the team scored early to give the sellout crowd some hope. Anor benefited from build-up play through Tony Tchani and Chad Barson, receiving a simple pass in space before threading his shot just inside the right post. With more than half an hour to play, the teams were level.
Montreal did not go quietly. In the 64th minute the skill of Di Vaio and Andres Romero forced Clark into a pair of skillful saves, followed a few minutes later by another acrobatic effort to tip another Romero shot around the post.
Eventually it was the Crew who broke the deadlock, again through the skill of Bernardo Anor. In the 75th minute, substitute Aaron Schoenfeld chested a loose ball down for Anor in midfield, who strode forward unchallenged. As the Impact defense finally stepped to challenge him, he unleashed a blinding right-footed shot that left Evan Bush grasping at air.
Here, again, the game failed to follow the expected script. The Impact failed to muster significant pressure on the Crew defense as the game wound down. Columbus held possession, continuing to attack with the lead until the final five minutes of regulation. Eventually Montreal did start to put the home team under duress, but it was too little and definitely too late.
What it means
The victory snaps a seven-game winless streak for the Crew, and lifts the team to a 5-7-8 record (W-L-T). Their 23 points put them in a three-way tie for the final playoff position in the Eastern Conference. They share that spot with Philadelphia and New England; the Union have played one more game than Columbus, while the Revolution have played one fewer.
This Wednesday the Crew take a break from league play to host English club Crystal Palace in a friendly. They return to league play next Saturday with a trip to New England.
Timeline of events
15' Corner kick, Columbus (right side - Finlay shot off target)
23' Corner kick, Columbus (right side - short corner intercepted)
36' 0-1 Marco Di Vaio (Justin Mapp)
43' Corner kick, Columbus (right side - headed clear)
56' 1-1 Bernardo Anor (Tony Tchani, Chad Barson)
58' Corner kick, Montreal (right side)
63' Corner kick, Montreal (left side - cleared)
64' Corner kick, Montreal (left side - headed clear)
67' Aaron Schoenfeld replaces Adam Bedell
67' Corner kick, Columbus (left side - Schoenfeld header off the post)
69' Corner kick, Montreal (right side - headed clear)
70' Corner kick, Montreal (left side - punched by Clark)
70' Caution, Hassoun Camara (professional foul on Federico Higuain)
71' Corner kick, Columbus (right side - shot deflected)
71' Corner kick, Columbus (right side - foul called)
75' 2-1 Bernardo Anor (unassisted)
79' Corner kick, Columbus (left side - short, Parkhurst shot wide)
80' Issey Nakajima-Farran replaces Patrice Bernier
89' Callum Mallace replaces Felipe Martins
89' Maxim Tissot replaces Justin Mapp
90' Corner kick, Montreal (left side - headed clear)
90' Eric Gehrig replaces Bernardo Anor
92+ Ben Speas replaces Federico Higuain
Steve Clark, Chad Barson, Giancarlo Gonzalez, Michael Parkhurst, Waylon Francis, Kevan George, Tony Tchani, Ethan Finlay, Federico Higuain (Ben Speas 92+), Bernardo Anor (Eric Gehrig 90'), Adam Bedell (Aaron Schoenfeld 67')
Matt Lampson, Tyson Wahl, Agustin Viana, Justin Meram
Evan Bush, Hassoun Camara, Matteo Ferrari, Heath Pearce, Krzysztof Krol, Justin Mapp (Maxim Tissot 89'), Patrice Bernier (Issey Nakajima-Farran 80'), Felipe Martins (Callum Mallace 89'), Andres Romero, Jack McInerney, Marco Di Vaio
Troy Perkins, Karl Ouimette, Santiago Gonzalez, Mamadou Danso