COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The last thing the Crew wanted was to go to overtime in its U.S. Open Cup round of 16 match against Rochester on Tuesday.
With a schedule that could include five games in 15 days if they pulled out a victory, the Crew needed a break to finish off the pesky upstarts from the USL-2 and got it in the fourth minute of stoppage time, when Steven Lenhart took advantage of a fortuitous bounce and scored for a 2-1 victory to advance Columbus to the quarterfinals.
“No one wanted 30 more minutes,” Lenhart said. “The fans didn’t want to watch 30 more minutes. I would have left. We would have played 10 vs. 10.”
The Crew had the benefit of the extra man when Felix Motagalvan took out Emilio Renteria in the 84th minute. Last year, it was the Rhinos who took advantage of the extra man and beat the Crew in penalty kicks.
Rochester coach Bob Lilley disputed the straight red by referee Hilario Grajeda.
“The studs were up,” Lilley said. “It was a late challenge from the front. He’s sliding in; he got the shin guard. Renteria was fine afterward. I don’t think it [deserved] a red. If there was reckless intent, I could understand.”
The Crew took the lead in the 30th minute when Andy Iro scored on a header off an Eddie Gaven corner kick. It was a sweet goal for Iro against three of his former UC Santa Barbara teammates on the Rochester roster.
“It was great to see them again. They were my teammates and roommates,” Iro said. “It was nice to score on them.”
Darren Spicer made it 1-1 in the 69th minute with a crafty shot after a service from Frankie Sanfilippo went off Crew defender Eric Brunner.
“Not many teams come in here and have a lot of success,” Lilley said. “I thought at 1-1, we were playing well enough that the game could have gone in either direction. We did what we could and we put ourselves in position. The winning goal wasn’t a direct result of having 10 men on the field.”
Ironically, Brunner and Sanfilippo reversed roles on the winning goal.
Brunner sent a ball 60 yards toward the penalty area. Sanfilippo’s header hit Lenhart in the thigh and the ball bounced once before Lenhart took an awkward volley and lifted the ball to the right corner of the net.
“It was a critical goal at the right time,” Lilley said. “He didn’t blast it. He got it on frame in the corner. It was a pretty good finish at that point to win it in stoppage time.”
It was a thing of beauty to Lenhart. His only MLS goal this season came on May 1 and he was even given the opportunity by Guillermo Barros Schelotto last Saturday against D.C. United to take a penalty to boost his confidence. He missed.
Lenhart also missed an easy five-yard header in the opening five minutes of the match, but his luck finally changed in stoppage time.
“It hit my thigh,” said Lenhart. “I looked up and tried to put it in the corner. It wasn’t the fastest moving ball but it went in and everybody was happy.”
Happy indeed, as the Crew must now get ready to host Chicago on Saturday in MLS action, and then play a U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal leg next Tuesday.
“We’re always happy with a win,” Iro said, “[but] the performance wasn’t good enough. We have to get better. You just don’t want to go 120 minutes in the midweek. A win’s a win. We’ll take it.”