COLUMBUS, OH - AUGUST 20: Emilio Renteria #20 of the Columbus Crew celebrates his first half goal against the Philadelphia Union on August 20, 2011 at Crew Stadium in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
Andres Mendoza converted a 51st minute penalty after a Sheanon Williams hand ball in the area and the Columbus Crew held out for a 2-1 win over the Philadelphia Union. The Crew's win gave them a six-point lead atop the Eastern Conference, although the Union still have played one less game. The Union's winless streak was stretched to five games.
Freddy Adu began the match on the bench in his second game with the Union, and Veljko Paunovic started in his place at attacking midfielder. Danny Mwanga was handed a rare start at striker alongside Sebastien Le Toux. Philadelphia held possession well in the first half, but failed to create many chances. Columbus opened up a 1-0 lead in the 37th minute when Emilio Renteria got on the end of a cross and flicked it past several Union defenders into the corner of the net.
Philadelphia would answer quickly, though. Paunovic connected on a Keon Daniel corner kick and directed the ball into Will Hesmer's goal to tie the score at 1-1.
In the second half, the Union came out much more flat than in the first. In the 50th minute, Sheanon Williams committed a hand ball infraction in the penalty area on a Robbie Rogers cross, and Andres Mendoza converted it from the spot to put the Crew up 2-1.
Peter Nowak made several changes to try and reinvigorate his squad, inserting Adu for Mwanga and Michael Farfan for Justin Mapp. While Adu seemed to put a new energy into the team, the Union failed to finish a few quality chances. A powerful cross on the ground from Williams was just missed by Paunovic in the 87th minute, and Le Toux's hard shot off a rebound went right at Hesmer during stoppage time.
The Crew would hold on to their 2-1 lead in the end to move six points clear atop the Eastern Conference. The Union were left in danger of dropping further down the standings after the loss, as Kansas City and Houston play as well this weekend and are less than three points behind Philadelphia. What does work in the Union's favor are the games in hand they have over the rest of the Conference, but DC United has the chance Sunday to tie the Union at 34 points in the same number of games played.
Philadelphia returns to PPL Park next Sunday to face the New England Revolution at 7 PM, in a game that will be televised nationally by Galavision and locally by Comast Sportsnet. But first, they will play in a friendly on Wednesday against USL-PRO affiliate Harrisburg City Islanders at Skyline Sports Complex.