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Dramatic Justin Meram goal leads Columbus Crew to 3rd straight win in 2014

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The Columbus Crew are atop the Eastern Conference standings in Major League Soccer, and are the last team in the league with a perfect record. Justin Meram ensured their latest victory with a sublime shot in injury time to lift the Crew over Seattle. Federico Higuain began the comeback midway through the second half, converting a penalty kick after center back Djimi Traore was ejected.

The game was frequently sloppy, as the rainy conditions and less-than-ideal artificial turf put both teams under duress. The central midfield pairing of Tony Tchani and Wil Trapp was less effective than they had been in the team's opening two games, with several giveaways putting the defense under immediate pressure. Seattle opened the scoring on just such an occasion, with Kenny Cooper leading a counterattack down the field and shooting past Steve Clark into the far side netting.

Columbus spurned two glorious chances to equalize late in the first half when Federico Higuain's chipped attempt over Stefan Frei - reminescent of his best efforts from 2013 - clipped the face of the crossbar instead of dropping in. Bernardo Anor, waiting in the goal mouth for just such a rebound, put his headed shot inches wide of the right post.

Gregg Berhalter's men calmed down in the second half, making better passing decisions and limiting the Sounders' opportunities for quick counterattacks.

The game changed dramatically just before the hour mark when Seattle captain and center back Djimi Traore was ejected for a reckless challenge on Dominic Oduro. Oduro, who had shrugged past Traore in the penalty area and had only Frei to beat, was scythed down by Traore in textbook fashion. Referee Allen Chapman immediately pointed to the spot, and gave Traore his walking orders. Higuain duly converted the penalty kick with a powerful shot to Frei's left.

In order to shore up their defense, Seattle was forced to replace Kenny Cooper with former Fire defender Jalil Anibaba, blunting their own attack in an apparent attempt to salvage a home draw. Columbus, for their part, smelled blood in the water and put together a dominating show of possession - at times holding the ball for 90% of the game as measured by the league's statistics service.

The Sounders countered the Crew's pressure with another defensive substitution, removing Obafemi Martins in favor of Leo Gonzalez for the game's closing minutes. Instead it was a Columbus substitute, Justin Meram, who scored the dramatic winner. Receiving a corner kick from Higuain at the top of the penalty area, Meram curled an incredible right-footed shot past a handful of Sounders defenders.

Timeline of Events

8' Caution, Hector Jimenez (diving)
12' Corner kick, Columbus (left - no shot taken)
13' Corner kick, Seattle (left side - headed out)
13' Corner kick, Seattle (left side - headed clear)
21' Corner kick, Seattle (left side - headed clear)
22' 0-1 Kenny Cooper (Obafemi Martins)
25' Corner kick, Columbus (left side - out for corner)
25' Corner kick, Columbus (left side - short, no shot taken)
31' Corner kick, Seattle (left side - foul on Seattle)
55' Corner kick, Seattle (left side - shot blocked)
59' Ejection, Djimi Traore (reckless foul on Dominic Oduro)
60' 1-1 Federico Higuain (penalty kick)

60' Jalil Anibaba replaces Kenny Cooper
62' Jairo Arrieta replaces Dominic Oduro
69' Caution, Wil Trapp (foul on Lamar Neagle)
73' Ethan Finlay replaces Hector Jimenez
76' Sean Okoli replaces Lamar Neagle
81' Corner kick, Columbus (left side - headed out)
82' Corner kick, Columbus (left side - no shot taken)
84' Corner kick, Columbus (left side - headed clear)
86' Leo Gonzalez replaces Obafemi Martins
87' Caution, Michael Azira (late challenge on Wil Trapp)
89' Justin Meram replaces Wil Trapp
94+ Corner kick, Columbus (left side - deflected out)
94+ Corner kick, Columbus (left side - goal)
94+ 2-1 Justin Meram (Federico Higuain)

Lineups

Columbus

Steve Clark, Josh Williams, Giancarlo Gonzalez, Michael Parkhurst, Waylon Francis, Hector Jimenez (Ethan Finlay 73'), Wil Trapp (Justin Meram 89'), Tony Tchani, Bernardo Anor, Federico Higuain, Dominic Oduro (Jairo Arrieta 62')

Unused subs
Matt Lampson, Tyson Wahl, Agustin Viana, Chad Barson

Seattle

Stefan Frei, DeAndre Yedlin, Chad Marshall, Djimi Traore (sent off 59'), Dylan Remick, Michael Azira, Osvaldo Alonso, Gonzalo Pineda, Kenny Cooper (Jalil Anibaba 60'), Obafemi Martins (Leo Gonzalez 86'), Lamar Neagle (Sean Okoli 76')

Unused subs
Marcus Hahnemann, Chad Barrett, Marco Pappa, Cam Weaver

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