Columbus 1, Philadelphia 2: Three things as the Union take full points from the Crew
Keegan Rosenberry immediately answered Columbus' fortunate equalizer credited to Adam Jahn, and the Philadelphia Union took a big step toward the postseason while knocking the Crew's into the Eastern Conference cellar with a 2-1 triumph Wednesday night at MAPRE Stadium.
Rosenberry finished among three defenders from a Tranquillo Barnetta feed in the 74th minute to lift the Union (10-9-7), which claimed its second successive road triumph to climb even on points with the third-place New York Red Bulls in the East.
Columbus (4-9-11), which had drawn its six previous home encounters in an 11-game home unbeaten run, was seeking back-to-back wins for just the second time this season after success at spiraling New England last weekend -- its first league victory since the end of May -- but struggled to challenge goalkeeper Andre Blake. The Crew fell behind Chicago on the total-wins tiebreaker when the Fire drew with the LA Galaxy and sit six points out of the playoff zone.
Fabian Herbers provided Philly a 60th-minute lead, and Jahn was credited with knocking the ball across the line after Blake misplayed Tony Tchani's header from a corner kick, leading to a scramble on the goal line.
Three prevailing storylines from Wednesday's match:
Crew isn’t good enough
If Columbus is going to make the playoffs and take aim at a second successive MLS Cup appearance, it has to win games at home. That seems beyond the club at the moment. The Crew had not lost at MAPFRE since mid-April, but three wins in 13 home games is no recipe for success. Ninth place seems a fitting spot.
There are good things going on out there. Tony Tchani's return from suspension was a huge plus defensively, and he played a key role on the Crew's goal. Justin Meram worked hard on the left flank, and most of what worked went through him.
The debits add up more. Ola Kamara hasn't tallied in his last four games, and he never looked dangerous against the Union, even when racing for a one-on-one chance with Blake. Ethan Finlay wasn't effective, and he needs to be if the Crew is going to score goals.
There's not much off the bench to aid the attack: Jahn was the only forward on Gregg Berhalter's bench (he came on immediately after Rosenberry's goal) and Dilly Duka was the only true attacker among reserve midfielders (he entered three minutes after Jahn). Both were effective -- Jahn got the goal, although it seemed Joshua Yaro got more of the ball, and Duka fired just past the left post in the 81st minute -- but neither provided the spark the Crew lacked.
Columbus needs more and better, fast, and it's debatable that it has the means to do so.
Union play it smart
Philadelphia's confidence, bolstered in the 4-0 win at New England a week and a half ago, was lagging after the home loss to Toronto FC. Things have been difficult the past couple of months, with the Union falling from the top spot in the East with just one win in six games, and had things gone south in Columbus, who can be sure where it might have led.
But Jim Curtin played it smart, with a nicely organized defense that made nothing easy for the Crew, something that was nice to see with midfielder Brian Carroll sidelined by plantar fasciitis.
The game wasn't particularly exciting, certainly not until the second half, but Philly quietly assumed command with high-pressuring in Columbus' end after about 25 minutes. It led to Crew keeper Steve Clark booting the ball out of bounds, and Chris Pontius nodding a Rosenberry cross on goal moments later. Soon after, Alejandro Bedoya dodged two defenders at midfield, and Rosenberry set up Herbers for the best Union chance of the first half.
The Crew had more of the ball and created more chances, but Philadelphia was in charge from that point.
Issues in defense
Philadelphia was organized at the back, for the most part, and did well to limit the effectiveness of Finlay and Federico Higuain, providing the foundation for three points. Blake had to come up big a few times, especially on Finlay's diving header at the right post from Meram's superb cross in the 19th minute. Had Higuain or Kamara been sharper, things might have turned out different.
The Union has been inconsistent defensively the past couple of months -- foes tallied three or more goals in five of the previous dozen outings -- and there were a few problems Wednesday night that didn't impact the result but, should they linger, could cost the club later on.
Twice while holding onto a one-goal lead, Yaro got into Blake's way on aerial balls. On the first, Blake ran into Yaro while chasing a Finlay cross; the ball landed nearby, with no imminent danger, and Blake was able to grab it. On the second, Yaro headed a ball clear as Blake arrived to grab it.
Blake's propensity for coming off his line could be tempered -- when he does come out, he needs to communicate that better to Yaro, certainly -- and he needs to be wiser when he does come out. The Crew's goal was helped by Blake coming out toward Tchani for Higuain's corner kick; he could only parry the header, which looped off the crossbar and fell into the goalmouth before it was knocked home.
Philly also needs to keep things tight when Blake boots the ball upfield. Two of the Crew's best chances followed long balls from the goalkeeper: Kamara fired wildly off-target from Wil Trapp's midfield volley following a headed goal kick, and Blake made a diving stop on Meram after Columbus countered following the keeper's clearance from a back pass.
Scott French is a reporter for FourFourTwo. Follow him on Twitter @ScottJFrench.