By the end of the night on Saturday at Crew Stadium, Edson Buddle had hit the back of the net four times as the Columbus Crew ended their one-year playoff hiatus in dramatic fashion, extending their unbeaten streak to 13 games with a 4-2 victory against the MetroStars.
Buddle answered an early MetroStars goal with his first in the ninth minute -- the first of two times the Crew came back from one-goal deficits. But the young striker impacted the game from the very beginning, almost giving the Crew the lead in the first minute while tying to take advantage of a defensive miscue.
MetroStars coach Bob Bradley saw it as a sign of things to come. "Early in the game, right off the bat, [Tenywa] Bonseu let a ball get away from him and it gave him a chance right off the opening play," said Bradley. "He's a dangerous guy."
Columbus coach Greg Andrulis agreed: "In the first minute of the game, he has a break out chance but I guess it wasn't meant to be on that one. He is a kid who has a tremendous amount of potential."
Buddle's strike answered a John Wolyniec goal just three minutes earlier. Then the second half started with a very similar theme: an early goal for the MetroStars and a quick goal for the Crew to level the score. Eddie Gaven gave the visitors the lead by finishing a Amado Guevara free kick before another retaliatory strike from Buddle to knot the score.
Bradley saw this as the turning point in the game. "We let them back right away in the second half. On the Crew's second goal, [Chris] Wingert tried to play a cross. [Craig] Ziadie blocked it and the ball went right back to Wingert's feet. Wingert put it in a cross and we really got burnt by it," said the Metro coach. "At that point we needed to raise our level again and before we could, they got another goal."
Although Andrulis doesn't like playing from behind, he did like his players' attitudes to going down a goal. "To our guys credit, I thought we did a great job responding to those goals by not letting New York get any momentum by turning around and scoring relatively quickly both times," he said.
An Andrulis decision also had a significant impact -- the 58th-minute substitution of Kyle Martino with Jeff Cunningham. Cunningham's fresh legs intimidated the defenders into giving him too much space and he made them pay for their loose marking. He twice made runs down the center channel only to slip the ball to an unmarked Buddle when New York finally tried close him down in the penalty area.
"I thought Jeff Cunningham made a world of difference by opening the game up for us," said Andrulis. "He gave two great balls to Edson."
Buddle recognized that his team not only set him up for his record-breaking night with great assists, but also help him on a daily basis. It was the eighth time a player had scored at least four goals in a game in MLS history; two players achieved it twice.
"That team is behind me. They support me and push me everyday in practice. It is the same positive environment everyday," said the four-goal scorer. "I happened to score 4 goals today. I thank my team and my family."
The Crew's coach is just glad Buddle -- who hadn't scored since Aug. 7 -- is finding his rhythm during the stretch run.
"It is the right time for him to be warming up. He is a bit streaky and he has had a few games where he has had some really close calls," said Andrulis. "He has been pressing a little bit. It is good to see him get rewarded for all of the hard work he has put in."
In the high scoring affair, the coaches noticed that each defense had breakdowns. "I think we allowed them a little bit too much time on the ball. We didn't close down their forwards as good as we needed to," said Bradley. "When one guy gets four goals, you are allowing him too many opportunities."
Said Andrulis: "I think both goals that were scored against us were sloppy on our part. It is not to take anything away from what New York did, but they weren't the cleanest goals that we have given up."
However, at the end of the night, the Crew achieved their goal for the match. "It is a conference game worth three points. It is a home game. It is against the team directly behind us in the standings," Andrulis said. "We didn't make any bigger deal out of it than that. We want to get points at home."
Now that they have their ticket into their playoffs, the Crew can move to its next set of goals.
"We want to be the first place team," Andrulis said. "We want home field advantage."
John Kuhn is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.