Following a lackluster performance last week at Dallas, the Union traveled to Columbus where they appeared anything but lackluster in a pleasantly surprising 2-1 victory Saturday evening against the Columbus Crew.
Playing a strong opposition, the Union did not disgrace themselves in the opening minutes. While they struggled initially to generate anything offensively, they also did well to ensure that the Columbus Crew were unable to generate a quality opportunity on Andre Blake in the early going. In fact, the first big opportunity of the match surprisingly went to the Union as a Leo Fernandes shot from the box set up by Chris Pontius was stopped by Columbus keeper Steve Clark.
Following multiple times preventing danger by collecting crosses in the air, in the 41st minute Andre Blake would eventually need to be called on to make a save, and he delivered. Fernandes turned the ball over, but Blake was up to the task of deflecting out a shot from Hector Jimenez. It may have been Blake's first big save, but it would not be his last.
With the Union and Crew seemingly about to go into the dressing room tied at half time, the Union managed the match's first goal out of seemingly nowhere. A long Keegan Rosenberry throw-in found its way on the head of Wil Trapp who unwittingly a marvelous to head flick to Chris Pontius. Pontius then slotted the ball past Clark for the Union's first goal of the season and a shock lead at Columbus the Union carried to half time.
Both teams' midfields dealt with their fair share of struggles on the evening, including the aforementioned Trapp. And for the Union, it nearly led to a second half equalizer. With Brian Carroll unable to latch onto a pass from Pontius, Kei Kamara had an opportunity to score but he sent his ball across the face of goal and wide of the outstretched Blake.
In the 71st minute, the Union were able to shock everyone and double their lead on the defending Eastern Conference Champions. C.J. Sapong passed the ball to 2nd half substitute Sebastien Le Toux who executed a great pass to Ilsinho. Ilsinho proceeded to deflect the ball off Michael Parkhurst resulting in the ball finding its way to a trailing Pontius who fired the ball past Clark for his second goal of the game, and ultimately the match's game-winning goal. After doing nothing of substance offensively against Dallas, to see two Union goals on the road and against a side as capable of the Crew was refreshing to see. .
Down by two is when the Crew finally ignited a flurry of offense on Blake. In the 81st minute a Federico Higuain shot resulted in Blake stretching out yet again to prevent the Crew from scoring. Although there was nothing Blake could do in the 87th minute. Off a corner kick, Kamara got his head on the ball scoring the Crew's lone goal of the match. Immediately following the goal, the Crew did continue their push forward, but Blake remained equal to the task stopping every foray that game his way including a fantastic sprawling save on Justin Meram following a scramble in the box.
This win will provide a boost of confidence to the Union as Columbus figures once again to be a side that once again contends for the Eastern Conference Championship. The Union have played two difficult teams on the road and have come away with three points in the standings and only a -1 goal differential. Considering the low expectations set for the Union to start the season, that in itself has to be considered at least a moral victory if not an actual victory and hopefully a sign of things to come.
Up next for the Union they finally get to play a game at the newly named Talen Energy when the New England Revolution come to town next Sunday afternoon.