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Philadelphia Union 2, Columbus Crew 3 | MLS Match Recap

CHESTER, Pa. – In the span of five wild minutes, the Columbus Crew put the final nail in the coffin of the Philadelphia Union’s playoff hopes.

Trailing by a pair of goals late in the second half, the Crew staged a remarkable comeback to stun the Union 3-2 and inch closer to securing their own playoff berth for the first time since 2011.

Meanwhile, with the Red Bulls win over Toronto FC, the Union (9-11-12, 39 points) were officially eliminated from playoff contention – a stunning reversal for a team that would have drawn within one point of fifth place in the Eastern Conference with a win.

And after the Union opened up a 2-0 lead with a pair of second half goals, it looked like they’d do just that. But Ethan Finlay drew the Crew (12-10-10, 46 points) within 2-1 after scoring on a Hector Jimenez cross in the 78th minute, and Justin Meram netted the equalizer a minute later after dribbling through the Union defense and firing one past goalkeeper Zac MacMath.

In the 82nd minute, Jairo Arrieta completed the onslaught, silencing the PPL Park crowd when he slid onto a Tony Tchani cross for the game-winning goal.

Only moments before the three goals that effectively ended Philly’s season, Andrew Wenger put the Union ahead 2-0 when he pounced on a rebound after Vincent Nogueira hit the post.

And in the 68th minute, second half sub Danny Cruz electrified the soon-to-be-devastated crowd when Amobi Okugo headed a Fabinho cross down to the path of Cruz, who rifled a shot past Crew goalkeeper Steve Clark that put Philly ahead.

Long before the late drama, the Union dominated the first half, jumping on the Crew early and often. Wenger had a couple of big chances in the first few minutes, including a diving header that went just wide in the opening minute.

Clark also made a big save on Wenger in the 14th minute after the Union put together a nifty passing sequence, before corralling a Wenger header close to halftime.

In the 23rd minute, Wenger was again in on the action but his cross went just by a wide-open Conor Casey in the box. Nogueira, deployed in an attacking midfield role with Cristian Maidana out, was also dangerous but didn’t get a call when he went down in the box in the ninth minute.

The Crew’s best chance of the first half probably came in the 44th minute when Finlay broke free following a miscue from Fabinho, who got the start in front of Sheanon Williams. But MacMath, back in net while Rais Mbolhi is away with the Algerian national team, thwarted his breakaway attempt by getting to the ball first.

Playing without leading scorer Federico Higuian and top assist man Waylon Francis – both of whom were suspended due to yellow card accumulation – the Crew took a while to get going and didn’t muster their first shot on target until the 57th minute when MacMath scooped up a Finlay shot.

Just three minutes later, the Crew nearly broke the scoreless deadlock when Meram blasted one off the crossbar after MacMath punched away a corner kick.

With the game still tied in the 61st minute, Cruz curled one from distance that went inches wide just minutes after coming into the game for Conor Casey.

The Union return to action next week when they host Sporting Kansas City on Saturday, while the Crew face the New York Red Bulls on the road Sunday. The Union and Crew will then play for the second time in three weeks when they collide in the regular season finale at Crew Stadium on Oct. 26.

Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at djzeitlin@gmail.com.

MLSsoccer.com Men of the Match

Rank Player What We Saw
1 Justin Meram Meram continued his solid season on Saturday, weaving his way through the Union defense to score a lovely equalizer in the 79th minute.
2 Andrew Wenger Wenger was active all night, putting Philadelphia up 2-0 when he tapped home from close-range and nearly scoring on several other occasions.
3 Ethan Finlay The Crew’s spark plug was at it again on Saturday, causing the Union problems and starting Columbus’s dramatic comeback with his 78th minute goal.

 

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