The Union have only scored three goals in a game twice this season. On both occasions, Cristian Maidana was dominant, playing like the dynamic creator that fans and Union brass alike delight in watching. Coach Jim Curtin was one of the many who were impressed by the Argentine playmaker's performance during the Union's 3-0 win over the Columbus Crew.
"Chaco Maidana, in possession, was unbelievable for us," Curtin said. "He sees things that other players don't, so again, he's that special guy, he has that special left foot. I can't teach it; I can't coach it. "
He even offered an explanation as to why Maidana was so transcendent on Wednesday night.
"Was there maybe something extra in the game with him playing against Higuaín? Maybe," Curtin said. "They have a relationship, so to do his best in that one was big."
When asked if the friendly competition propelled him to step up his game, Chaco responded in the affirmative.
"He is a very good player and I have used him as a reference in this league," said Maidana through a translator. "But tonight, I think I was a bit better."
Maidana helped kick off the scoring in the 41st minute. Maurice Edu picked off a pass from Mohammed Saeid after its recipient had slipped in the patchy center circle. Edu brought the ball forward before finding Maidana about 25 yards from goal. He slipped in a vertical pass for Le Toux, who squared the ball from the corner of the six-yard box. After it rolled past three flat-footed Crew defenders, all CJ Sapong had to do was tap the ball into an open net. That he did, and the Union went into halftime with the one goal advantage.
"We like to play with each other," Le Toux said about Maidana. "He knows that I like the ball in space, and I know that he likes it at his feet. I can run off him, and he can find a great pass into space sometimes."
The Union added another goal seven minutes into the second half. After collecting an errant pass, Crew 'keeper Steve Clark fumbled the ball at the top of the box as he looked to start a counterattack. There appeared to be some indecision present, as Clark attempted to stop his throwing motion just as the ball was leaving his hands. He managed to recover and poke the ball away from nearby Chaco Maidana, but his clearance rolled right to Vincent Nogueira. With his first touch, the midfielder chipped Steve Clark, who could only watch as the ball flew into the net.
In the 58th minute, a one-two between Sheanon Williams and CJ Sapong put the right back one-on-one with Crew defender Emanuel Pogatetz. Williams tapped the ball past his man then knocked it to Le Toux at the near post. He shot the ball past an outstretched Clark for the home team's third goal.
The Crew went into Wednesday's game tired and without one of their most important players. Michael Parkhurst was sent off early on during Saturday's match in Orlando. If playing in Florida in late May weren't tough enough, the man disadvantage ensured that the Columbus players were in for a tiring day.
Coach Gregg Berhalter rested three starters on Wednesday, including MLS-leading goalscorer Kei Kamara. As a result, Columbus did not look whole, absorbing a lot of pressure in a match-up that they would likely be dictating, were the circumstances different. The Union were more than happy to take advantage of their depleted opposition.
Cristian Maidana completed 51 of his 70 passes, an impressive mark considering that nearly 90% of those passes came in his opponents' half. Sapong, who came on for an injured Fernando Aristeguieta in the 37th minute, was similarly impressive. The forward was active in the build-up, flicking on headers and facilitating play. While he'll get the most acclaim for his goal, his hold-up play leading up to the third goal was something to behold.
Though the Union controlled the match from start to finish, the Crew still had their chances. Their best opportunity came in the 27th minute, when Aaron Schoenfeld's header was kept out only by the tips of Brian Sylvestre's fingers.
Maurice Edu and Richie Marquez--a partnership that Curtin is not eager to break up despite Steven Vitoria's return--held the clean sheet and generally looked comfortable dealing with whatever the Crew had to throw at them. Additionally, Brian Carroll was a monster in the midfield, disrupting countless passes. Though his passing was hardly perfect, the 33-year-old put in a great shift in his fourth consecutive full 90.
"Brian Carroll quietly had a great game," Curtin said. "He's a winner, he's a man. He's a guy that does so many of the little things that don't show up in the stat sheet."