Edson Buddle scored all four goals, as the Columbus Crew twice overcame deficits before becoming the first team to clinch a place in the MLS Cup Playoffs thanks to a 4-2 victory against the MetroStars at Crew Stadium on Saturday night.
The Crew extended their unbeaten streak to 13 games, the second longest in Major League Soccer history, while Buddle became just the sixth player in league annals to hit for as many as four goals in a game, one short of the MLS record.
It took the MetroStars just six minutes to take the lead. A defensive turnover by the Crew found Mike Magee on the right wing, and his service was headed by Robin Fraser, but not out of danger. John Wolyniec half-volleyed the clearance into the right side netting from the heart of the area to give the MetroStars the early lead.
Tony Sanneh was then able to beat the MetroStars netminder several minutes later, but his effort was ruled offside after he ran onto a chipped effort from Kyle Martino that was desperately close.
MetroStars coach Bob Bradley was forced into a substitution after just 39 minutes when Tenywa Bonseu aggravated an injury to his left Achilles tendon. Jamaica international Craig Ziadie entered the match as the new right back.
After the break, the Metros burst out of the gate just as they did in the first half. A Chad Marshall foul on Wolyniec near the right corner flag resulted in a dangerous free kick. Amado Guevara sent a low, driven ball to the near post where Eddie Gaven redirected just inside the post, Crew 'keeper Jon Busch just unable to keep the ball out as he dove at the base of the post.
But The Crew again equalized quickly, again taking just three minutes. Chris Wingert tried to cross the ball but the ball hit off the back of Ziadie, but he looped a volley on the second try into the six-yard box where an unmarked Buddle headed in his second tally.
Crew head coach Greg Andrulis brought on Jeff Cunningham for Kyle Martino with a half-hour left, and it paid immediate dividends, as a fine ball from Cunningham to Buddle in the 65th minute gave the Crew their first lead of the night.
Cunningham picked up a loose ball in the middle third of the field, and fearing his outstanding speed, the Metros defenders backpedaled giving Buddle plenty of time to set his run towards goal. Cunningham perfectly slipped a through ball into the run of Buddle, and after going in alone on Walker, Buddle calmly rounded out his first career hat trick.
A near replay of the goal occurred in the 74th minute. Cunningham received a pass from Paule and dribbled at the defense on the left. But this time Cunningham picked out the streaking Buddle on the right side of the field, and Buddle again beat Walker, sliding the ball under his dive to finish off the match and secure the Crew's place in the playoffs after missing out last season.
The Crew remain at home next weekend when they play host another to Eastern Conference rival in D.C. United (7:30 p.m. ET). The MetroStars play their last non-conference match of the season when they travel to Dallas on Saturday (8:30 p.m. ET).
MLSnet.com Man of the Match: Edson Buddle (Columbus Crew)
MetroStars (10-10-6) vs. Columbus Crew (10-5-10)
September 18, 2004 -- Columbus Crew Stadium
MET -- John Wolyniec 8 (unassisted) 6
CLB -- Edson Buddle 7 (Ross Paule 2, Kyle Martino 3) 9
MET -- Eddie Gaven 7 (Amado Guevara 9) 49
CLB -- Edson Buddle 8 (Chris Wingert 2) 52
CLB -- Edson Buddle 9 (Jeff Cunningham 3) 65
CLB -- Edson Buddle 10 (Jeff Cunningham 4, Ross Paule 3) 74
MetroStars -- Jonny Walker, Tenywa Bonseu (Craig Ziadie 39), Jeff Parke, Eddie Pope, Chris Leitch, Eddie Gaven (Sergio Galvan Rey 86), Amado Guevara, Mike Magee, Pablo Brenes, Fabian Taylor (Cornell Glen 54), John Wolyniec.
Substitutes Not Used: Kenny Arena, Zach Wells.
TOTAL SHOTS: 12 (4 tied with 2); SHOTS ON GOAL: 6 (Mike Magee 2); FOULS: 8 (Craig Ziadie 3); OFFSIDES: 1 (John Wolyniec 1); CORNER KICKS: 5 (Mike Magee 4); SAVES: 4 (Jonny Walker 4)
Columbus Crew -- Jon Busch, Duncan Oughton, Robin Fraser, Chad Marshall, Frankie Hejduk, Simon Elliott, Ross Paule, Tony Sanneh, Chris Wingert (David Testo 81), Kyle Martino (Jeff Cunningham 58), Edson Buddle (Danny Szetela 87).
Substitutes Not Used: Nelson Akwari, Devin Barclay, Clint Baumstark, Manny Lagos, Brian Maisonneuve, Michael Ritch.
TOTAL SHOTS: 14 (Edson Buddle 8); SHOTS ON GOAL: 8 (Edson Buddle 6); FOULS: 14 (Edson Buddle 6); OFFSIDES: 5 (Edson Buddle 2); CORNER KICKS: 5 (Jeff Cunningham 2); SAVES: 4 (Jon Busch 4)
Misconduct Summary: NONE
Referee: Kevin Stott
Referee's Assistants: -Thomas Supple; Bill Dittmar
4th Official: Hilario Grajeda
Time of Game: 1:50
All statistics contained in this boxscore are unofficial.