COLUMBUS, Ohio — They may not quite be the Comeback Kids, since they have managed only one win after trailing — Wednesday vs. Real Salt Lake — thus far in 2011, but match after match, the Crew are adding points.
The latest rally resulted in a 2-1 victory after going down in the seventh minute before becoming the first team in two years to score twice in the final 15 minutes on RSL.
It took a penalty kick by Andrés Mendoza in the 76th minute and a deflected strike by left back Josh Gardner in the 82nd for the Crew to end a five-game winless streak. During the 0-2-3 stretch, all five of the Crew goals were equalizers. The sixth came when Mendoza scored after rookie Justin Meram drew the foul.
“Without a PK, I don’t think [the Crew are] scoring a goal,” RSL midfielder Kyle Beckerman said after the match. “It happened and they got a little momentum.”
Gardner’s goal marked the first time Columbus (4-3-6) led in six games, a stat compounded by allowing a goal before the 10th minute four times during the span.
“I think we showed that we are well-prepared to mount comebacks,” Crew defender Sebastián Miranda said. “Unfortunately, it is not ideal to start matches down a goal. It would be nice to start and finish matches winning, but the important thing is this team has the strength and willpower to continue to fight until they get the result.”
Columbus are 1-0-4 when losing at halftime. FC Dallas are the only other team to win after trailing at the half, and the Crew are 1-3-4 when giving up the first goal for a .375 percentage, second only to the LA Galaxy’s .400 average.
“We would love to avoid [allowing early goals], but what is important is the result at the end of 90 minutes,” Crew coach Robert Warzycha said.
NOT THIS TIME
Everyone in Crew Stadium assumed Jeff Cunningham would take the PK that, if successful, would have given him 133 goals to tie the MLS career record of Jaime Moreno, as well as set a club mark of 63.
Mendoza later said he didn’t know Cunningham was going for the records or that Warzycha had designated Cunningham to be the shooter.
Beckerman was surprised when Cunningham yielded after Crew captain Chad Marshall attempted to convince Mendoza not to go to the spot.
“They tried to get [Cunningham] to take it and I think Jeff told them that’s all right because Mendoza was pretty set on taking it,” Beckerman said. “I’m sure he’ll get the goals.”
WHAT A CHANGE
When the teams met in Columbus in February in the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals, the temperature was about 70 degrees colder than the 94 on Wednesday.
“It was nuts,” Beckerman said. “It’s been really weird being around the same places; just the difference in your mind. There were no leaves on the trees, no grass being seen. It was a little different this time.”
BY THE NUMBERS
6 – Straight regular-season wins vs. Real Salt Lake in Crew Stadium.
5 – Penalty-kick goals out of the 13 overall scored by the Crew.