COLUMBUS, Ohio - It was the Justin Meram show in Columbus once again Sunday afternoon, as the winger scored a second half brace to help the Columbus Crew to a 3-0 win over visiting Chivas USA.
Meram's pair of perfectly placed shots came largely from his own creation, giving the Crew the spark they badly needed in what had been a sloppy, disjointed affair. Bernardo Anor returned from injury and added a late headed goal to ice the victory.
The three points were vital for the Crew, taking them above the "red line" in the tight playoff race in the Eastern Conference. They are now in 5th place, tied on points with the Philadelphia Union and New England Revolution.
Meanwhile, Chivas USA, who were without leading goalscorer Erick Torres (international duty), sunk further into the cellar in the Western Conference as their winless streak extended to nine matches, including eight losses.
Columbus were without their usual midfield duo of Tony Tchani and Wil Trapp who were both suspended for yellow card accumulation. They were replaced in the center of the pitch by Kevan George and Daniel Paladini, and in the first half, the pair struggled to put their stamp on the midfield.
As many clubs have done to the possession-oriented Crew, Chivas bunkered in and forced Columbus to attempt to attack, resulting in 40 minutes of largely toothless play to begin the game.
The only real action of the first half came when Crew forward Aaron Schoenfeld was tripped up by Eriq Zavaleta in the box in the 45th minute on a Columbus corner kick. Referee Geoff Gamble gave a penalty to Chivas players' dismay, handing the Crew a chance to go into halftime with the lead.
But the usually sure-footed Federico Higuain slammed his shot into the bar for his third penalty miss of the season in what seemed like a costly missed opportunity for the Crew.
Just seven minutes into the second half, Meram made the Columbus crowd forget about that miss. The winger collected the ball on the left side, just outside the box, cut inside onto his favored right foot and curled a feathery shot around a defender and past Chivas USA keeper Dan Kennedy.
Less than ten minutes later, Meram put the match away with another blast into the corner. He scooped up a loose ball in the middle of the field to go one-on-one with Kennedy and left no doubt, cooly slotting a right-footed shot into the corner of Kennedy's goal.
Meram now has seven goals on the season, second most on the Crew.
Anor, making his first appearance since July, added an insurance goal in the 80th minute, when fellow sub Hector Jimenez found the Venezuelan with a perfectly placed cross that Anor headed home.
MLSsoccer.com Men of the Match
|Rank||Player||What We Saw|
|1||Justin Meram (CLB)||He struggled in the first half, giving the ball away and killing attacks, but he made up for it with his 2nd-half double.|
|2||Dan Kennedy (CHV)||If he hadn't made three Save of the Week-worthy stops, it would've been even uglier for the Goats.|
|3||Federico Higuain (CLB)||Yes, he missed the penalty kick, but the Argentine was buzzing in the attack all day.|