COLUMBUS -- Emilio Renteria netted a stoppage-time winner as the Columbus Crew won their fourth straight match to move into the playoff zone in the Eastern Conference, coming from behind to defeat the Montreal Impact 2-1 on Saturday night at Crew Stadium.
Marco Di Vaio put the Impact ahead in the 73rd minute with a classy finish, only for Federico Higuain to once again turn into the difference-maker for the Crew. The Columbus designated player provided both assists on header goals by Chad Marshall and Renteria to lead the club to another victory.
Higuain, who has three goals and six assists in five games since joining Columbus, helped the Crew (12-8-6, 42 points) move into a third-place tie with Houston. They are unbeaten in six (4-0-2).
The result dealt a blow to Montreal's playoff hopes with the Impact stuck on 39 points (12-14-3) with only five matches remaining. It also marked the end of the Impact's five-game winning streak.
The Crew had a call for a hand ball by Montreal's Nelson Rivas in the first half, but the club's newfound explosive attack couldn't combine for much against a well-organized Montreal side. The visitors had the best chances of the opening half but Lamar Neagle and Davy Arnaud were foiled by Crew goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum, who resumed his goalkeeping duties for Columbus after missing the midweek victory in Philadelphia.
Impact goalkeeper Troy Perkins, who grew up in suburban Columbus, also made a pair of critical saves just after the break. First, he punched away a blistering 25-yarder from left back Nemanja Vukovic that was earmarked for the upper right corner. On Higuain’s ensuing corner kick, Perkins was well positioned to deny a header from Eddie Gaven in the battle of ‘keepers.
On the other end of the field, Montreal sub Sanna Nyassi then sparked his club to the opening goal of the match midway through the second half. He beat three defenders down the left side and served a ball in the box which Felipe knocked to Di Vaio waiting on the right side of the box. The Italian was calm under pressure and used a classy chip to beat Gruenebaum charging off his line for his third goal in as many matches.
Montreal appeared headed to victory in the taut defensive match, but Higuain would turn the match on its head.
The Columbus response came on a set piece by Higuain which found Marshall. The Crew defender beat his own teammates and Montreal's Rivas to the ball to head home over Montreal 'keeper Troy Perkins for his second goal of the season.
It was then time for Renteria, who entered in the 77th minute, to take the spotlight with his first goal since May 26 to spoil a solid Montreal defensive stand until that point.
Higuain came up with another pinpoint delivery in stoppage time, finding the Venezuelan, who flicked the ball past Perkins for the game-winner.
The schedule is unrelenting for Columbus, who are back in action on Wednesday night in New England (7:30 p.m. ET). Montreal have two weeks to reflect on the loss, returning to league play on Saturday, September 15 in Chicago (8:30 p.m. ET).
MLSsoccer.com Men of the Match
|Rank||Player||What We Saw|
|1||Federico Higuain||Again the Crew's difference-maker with two assists to decide the match. The most dangerous player for his side against a well-organized Impact squad.|
|2||Andy Gruenebaum||Took over GK duties again and his crucial saves to end the first half kept the Crew in the match after they struggled in the opening 45 minutes.|
|3||Emilio Renteria||Dealing with new role as bench player, but comes through and enjoys the spotlight with a stoppage time winner. If Higuain works well with Jairo Arrieta, who says it can't work with Renteria?|