A couple months ago, you might have circled a Columbus Crew match on your schedule as one that you might want to avoid. Jairo Arrieta and Federico Higuain should make you think otherwise.
Each of these two recent acquisitions for the Crew scored two goals, with Arrieta’s 86th minute goal breaking a deadlock and earning them the 4-3 victory over the New England Revolution.
New England forged themselves a 2 goal lead by the 23rd minute. First, Ryan Guy struck a shot at net from just outside the area, and it deflected past Andy Gruenebaum. Then the Columbus defense was exposed by forward Jerry Bengtson. Benny Feilhaber, stationed on the left of midfield, played a ball through for Bengtson who was played onside by left back Josh Williams. Gruenebaum couldn’t head Bengtson off at the pass, and the Honduran placed a shot just off the inside the near post and in, right before Williams got back to clear.
Then Columbus came alive. It started with Higuain, the older brother of Real Madrid striker Gonzalo. In the 25th minute, Eddie Gaven drew a free kick on a challenge by Stephen McCarthy. Higuain struck a near perfect free kick from 25 yards and it curled into the upper right corner past Matt Reis to make it 2-1 to New England. Then just after the half-hour mark, midfielder Milo Mirosevic lofted a through ball which sent Arrieta towards goal. He drilled it right past Reis to level the score. The turnaround was completed in the 43rd minute after Gaven drew another free kick, this time just to the left of center. Higuain hit nearly the same shot as the first, only this time to the upper left corner. Reis had no chance and Columbus hit halftime at 3-2.
Columbus battled fatigue and injury in this match, with both Carlos Mendes and Gruenebaum needing substitution by halftime. In the case of Mendes’ replacement, Julius James, he appeared to cost Columbus two important home points after dragging down substitute Diego Fagundez in the area. The equalizing penalty kick was scored by Lee Nguyen, who fooled Gruenebaum’s deputy, Matt Lampson.
Just when you thought New England could sneak out of Ohio with a point, Arrieta pounced in the 86th minute. Tony Tchani, who came on for Higuain as a defensive replacement before Nguyen’s penalty, was the architect of the winner by lofting a beautiful ball over the top. Arrieta again ran onto the ball, but this time used more touch to sneak it past Reis on the keeper’s left to decide the game.
But even before the final whistle, Lampson had to be excellent off the bench. Both Bengtson and Guy had good opportunities to equalize one last time, but Lampson was on the money, especially on the effort by Guy who struck it low and hard as stoppage time drew to a close.
The Crew and Montreal are both hovering around that 5th playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, with Columbus having games in hand over those above them in the standings. This will be an important stretch for them, and with their new acquisitions, they appear to have the firepower to challenge Chicago, DC United, and the Impact.