Set-piece success lifts Crew to satisfying win

COLUMBUS – Josh Gardner proved to be more than adequate taking corner kicks for injured Crew midfielder Eddie Gaven.

In fact, Gardner was spot-on to help the Crew rally from a 1-0 halftime deficit to beat New England 3-1 in Crew Stadium on Saturday.

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With Gaven missing his first game of the season because of a bruised leg, Gardner was on the ball in the ball right corner in the 75th minute.

The Crew (10-7-7) had countered a goal Benny Feilhaber in the 45th minute with an own goal from New England (4-11-9) defender Kevin Alston in the 54th when they lined up for the set piece.

Gardner’s service found the head of leaping center back Julius James and he headed the ball to the ground, where it skipped past goalkeeper Matt Reis for the winner.

“It’s nice Julius can jump six feet in the air,” Crew captain Chad Marshall said.

Emilio Renteria added an insurance goal in the 81st minute.

“I hit it down because I was so close to the goal,” James said. “I didn’t hit it cleanly enough as a laser. I tried to focus on getting it over. Josh put it in an excellent spot for me. My first goal for the Columbus Crew is a blessing for me.”

Crew coach Robert Warzycha was delighted as well.

“That goal was perfect timing,” Warzycha said. “The service was good. The run was good. I’m very happy we scored the first one.”

Technically, it was the Crew’s second dead ball score of the season. The first was credited to Jeff Cunningham at Vancouver on July 6 when a corner was cleared. The ball was sent into the box to Cunningham, but the team doesn’t view it as a dead-ball goal.

Gaven had taken the majority of free kicks this season (53), to rank seventh in MLS.

Gardner entered the game with 17 corners.

“He’s very capable of serving dead balls in,” Marshall said. “If we make the right run we’re capable of scoring a lot more. It was good to get that one.”