As defense wavers, Mendoza lifts resilient Crew to draw
COLUMBUS – The Crew’s once-stubborn defense wavered for the second match in three weeks on Saturday night, but the team got some respite from the unlikeliest of sources.
Andrés Mendoza scored twice and Emmanuel Ekpo added his first goal since 2009 as the Crew’s resilient offense broke out for three goals in a 3-3 draw against Chivas USA.
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“Too bad we let in some goals, but our offense came up big,” defender Julius James said. “It’s not good as a defender to let in three goals but it’s also encouraging for us to score goals.”
The three goals was a season high for the Crew, who had scored only eight times in 10 matches before Saturday night and snapped a 203-minute scoreless streak. They also forged ahead without injured leading scorer Emilio Rentería, but managed to rally three separate times to avoid a disappointing home defeat.
“We came back three times from one-goal deficits,” head coach Robert Warzycha said. “That showed a lot of heart.”
The Crew gave up three goals for the second time this month, following a 3-0 loss at San Jose on May 14.
“We responded well to the goals (Chivas) scored,” James said. “It’s encouraging. We showed some guts. You don’t want goals scored on you but we showed as a defense we can hold up. Now our attackers and offense showed they can too, which is absolutely positive for us.”
Warzycha gave Mendoza only his fourth start of the season in place of Rentería, and paired him with rookie Tommy Heinemann.
“They were busy,” Warzycha said. “They had some chances to score more goals. I was very pleased with their performance.”
Heinemann had a remarkable chance to counter an early Chivas USA goal from Nick LaBrocca in the 12th minute, but had his shot cleared off the line by defender Ante Jazic.
“I probably should have converted one or two of those chances,” Heinemann said. “I thought I did one of them.”
Mendoza tied the game in the 17th when he took a pass from Ekpo, who was playing his first game as the holding midfielder instead of the attacking mid spot.
“We’ve been waiting a long time for this,” Warzycha said. “(Ekpo) was very active. We can build on it.”
Mendoza, meanwhile, left the field immediately after he was subbed out for veteran Jeff Cunningham in the 71st minute and refused to talk to the media after the match.
“Obviously if you take a guy off the field he is going to be disappointed but I’m going to do what’s best for the team,” Warzycha said.