MLS Corner: Crew defeats Impact to pick up first win of the season

The Columbus Crew began its season with a disappointing 2-0 away loss to the Colorado Rapids on March 10. But the Black and Gold quickly replaced any doubts of another lackluster season, at least temporarily, with an exciting victory in its home opener against the Montreal Impact Saturday.

The Impact, Major League Soccer’s newest club, made its first trip to Columbus on Saturday, entering with an 0-1-1 record. Goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts’ spectacular game was not enough to save the visitors, who dropped to 0-2-1 as a result of the 2-0 loss.

Montreal got off to a quick start in the 15th minute, when Justin Mapp’s cross from the left wing found Sanna Nyassi open for a header in the penalty area. Columbus goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum stopped the Gambian forward’s attempt just before it reached the bottom corner, and the match remained scoreless.

Four minutes later, the Impact caught an unlucky break when defender Jeb Brovsky was sent off for a risky challenge on Milovan Mirosevic. Brovsky elbowed Mirosevic as both players attempted to win a loose ball, and Montreal was down to ten men.

The man advantage helped Columbus take the lead in the 28th minute from the penalty spot after forward Emilio Renteria was tripped by Felipe Martins inside the box. Mirosevic coolly converted the penalty for his first MLS goal and the Crew’s first of the season.

In the 40th minute, Ricketts made his first key save of the game. Crew midfielder Eddie Gaven ripped a hard shot from 25 yards, only to see Ricketts push it past the far post for a corner.

Ricketts again kept Montreal’s deficit at one in the 58th minute, with a diving save to prevent Olman Vargas’ header from finding the back of the net. But eight minutes later, Ricketts was powerless in stopping Vargas’ second effort.

Crew left back Shaun Francis pushed up into the attack, played the ball into space and hit a first-time cross that found Vargas as he sprinted toward the near post. Ricketts never had a chance as the 6-foot-2 forward’s emphatic header nestled in the bottom-left corner.

In the 76th minute, Columbus’ veteran defender and aerial specialist Chad Marshall was denied his first goal of the year on a set piece from the right side. Marshall flicked a header toward the far post, but Ricketts again made a diving save.

With just three minutes to go, Gruenebaum showed his own skill by saving Felipe’s deflected shot from just outside the penalty area, preserving his first shut-out of the season.

The Crew outshot Montreal 20 to 17, with nine shots on target. Columbus held much more possession that the visitors, using its advantage in numbers.

Both Columbus goals were scored by newcomers to Major League Soccer, so far proving that the offseason acquisitions made by the front office have been adequate. Mirosevic was brought in to play the attacking midfield role that has been missing for the Crew since the departure of Guillermo Barros Schelotto after the 2010 season.

Columbus next plays Saturday at Toronto FC, while the Impact will travel to New York to face the Red Bulls.

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