COLUMBUS, Ohio -- On a rainy Columbus night, Ethan Finlay snatched a late equalizer for the Columbus Crew to save a 1-1 draw with Real Salt Lake, who led for most of the second half thanks to a Luis Gil goal.
Neither team was able to trot out their preferred starting XI in the midweek clash. Both coaches rested players after Saturday matches, and both were missing key parts on World Cup rosters.
The altered Crew lineup gave Bernardo Anor his first start at left fullback of the season and Uruguayan Agustin Viana slotted into defensive midfield for Trapp. Designated Player Federico Higuain was a welcome return from a one-game suspension for yellow card accumulation.
Real Salt Lake fielded a largely depleted roster thanks to the absences of midfielder Kyle Beckerman and goalkeeper Nick Rimando, both with the United States national team, as well as forward Alvaro Saborio, who was injured with the Costa Rican national team last week.
Heavy rain at the start of the match made the game sluggish and sloppy in the early going. Neither team could hold possession, and each team made key errors at both ends of the field.
The Crew's best chance came in the 11th minute, when Viana was dragged down in the box by Rich Balchan during a corner kick.
Usually a sure bet on penalty kicks, Higuain stepped to the spot and blasted a shot high above the bar, squandering the chance at an early lead. The Argentine's night wouldn't improve, and after chasing down a long ball in an offside position, he came away grabbing his right hamstring, and would be substituted before the half.
Columbus nearly seized the lead again in the 21st minute, when defender Josh Williams caught hold of a volley and launched a shot across the goal. But RSL 'keeper Jeff Attinella made a diving stop to keep the score level.
RSL began the second half with much more tenacity than the Crew, and were rewarded with the opening goal in the 56th minute.
Initially, defender Abdoulie Mansally launched a screamer from outside of the box, and Crew goalkeeper Steve Clark made a diving save. But the 'keeper couldn't get any help from his defense, and the rebound fell to Gil, who slotted a shot across clark and into the back of the net.
Despite chances from Anor, Dominic Oduro, Hector Jimenez, Adam Bedell and Justin Meram, the Crew only found more of the offensive frustration they've suffered lately, and could not muster a goal against the defensive-minded RSL squad for most of the second half, largely thanks to excellent goalkeeping from Attinella.
The Crew breakthrough finally came in the 88th minute, when substitute Finlay, who had scored or assisted in each of the team's previous three matches, continued his blazing hot streak.
Ben Speas found the speedy Finlay on the wing with a gorgeous through ball, and the Creighton product summoned his best Higuain impression with a looping chip that finally beat Attinella to draw the Crew level.
MLSsoccer.com Men of the Match
|Rank||Player||What We Saw|
|1||Ethan Finlay||Seems learning from the master of the MLS chip, Higuain, paid off for Finlay, who maintains his strong form|
|2||Jeff Attinella||Could do nothing on Finlay's beauty, and put in a fantastic performance on the night, stopping Crew repeatedly|
|3||Chris Schuler||One of RSL's experienced leaders for the night, he helped his team weather the Crew's increased pressure|