When all was set and done on the night, it would be another who inevitably stole the show.
Ola Kamara put in two goals while his striker counterpart on the other team finished the match scoreless. Coupled with a clean sheet in net from goalkeeper Steve Clark, Crew SC romped to a 2-0 win over the Revs. The result gives the club its first two-match winning streak since April 23rd.
Ola Kamara Brace, Steve Clark Clean Sheet Spearhead Dominant Columbus Crew SC Performance
Crew SC came out in their familiar 4-2-3-1 formation. But due to the continued absences of Wil Trapp (concussion symptoms) and Federico Higuain (post-hernia surgery inflammation), manager Gregg Berhalter was forced to slot players in unfamiliar positions. Nicolai Naess, normally a center back, made his fourth straight start at defensive midfield. And Tony Tchani, fresh off serving a red card suspension, played more advanced than he’s used to in the number ten role.
For the visitors, New England head coach Jay Heaps opted for a 4-4-2 with a diamond midfield for the fourth straight game. It had been a tried and true formula up to this point, with the Revs coming into this contest unbeaten in three since Heaps made the formation change.
The opening 45 minutes was marked by a fantastic display in net on the part of both goalkeepers. Both Clark and the Revs’ Brad Knighton combined for ten saves. Knighton had six, including two fingertip denials of shots from Mohammed Saeid in the eighth minute and Justin Meram in the 30th. The latter glanced off the cross bar.
The Black and Gold would eventually break the deadlock right before halftime. And on a day when the narrative surrounding Kei was front and center, it was Ola who showed his quality as a finisher. In the 42nd minute, the Norwegian center forward collected a pass from Saeid, tucked inside, hit the ball low and beat Knighton near post for his 14th tally on the year.
It was a well-earned reward for the club considering the volume of attacking opportunities they were creating. Crew SC finished the first half with 12 total shots, seven of which were on target. The fact the home side didn’t have a larger advantage heading into the locker room was a testament to how well Knighton was playing.
Columbus was not content to let up on the gas in the second half. They continued to take it to the Revs in search of the insurance goal. And the eventual breakthrough would come rather controversially.
Late in the game, Kamara was making a run towards goal in trying to connect off a Harrison Afful cross. The ball appeared to be too far above his head to be considered a legitimate goal-scoring opportunity. But Revs defender London Woodberry made contact with Kamara in the box. Referee Chris Penso immediately pointed to the spot.
The Crew SC striker, who has become such an integral part to the club’s attack since taking over for Kei, made no mistake in burying it past Knighton who guessed wrong. The 84th minute goal increased Ola’s total on the year to 15. That puts him in a tie for fourth in the league with Dom Dwyer and Fanendo Adi.
Kamara was well-aware of all the hoopla associated with the return of a player who meant so much to the club in 2015. But, ultimately, he was dead set on helping the team in its present state.
Aiding in that eventual win was Clark, who finished with five saves along with his 21st clean sheet for Crew SC. Both him and Knighton brought their A-games today in a pressure-packed game for both teams. For Clark, he feels that the club tends to get really good efforts from opposing net minders.
“We feel like goalkeepers play really well against us every week,” Clark noted. “We’re getting the best out of these guys but Brad was good tonight.”
Heaps was similarly praiseworthy of his goalkeeper even though it came in a losing effort.
“The reality was Columbus played well tonight and Brad had to make some saves and (he) kept us in the game even up to the end there,” Heaps emphasized. “I thought if we’d been able to get a goal in the first half when Juan (Agudelo) was in and Lee (Nguyen) was in, it may have been a different story.”
But of course, it was Clark who ended the game having not let in a goal. And with the club needing wins at this point in the season, having him playing at a high level is certainly a good thing.
“It’s that time of year, it’s time to go,” the Crew SC keeper said. “We felt like we had a good performance. I felt good and it’s good to get a zero.”
The Black and Gold are back in action on Wednesday when they travel to RFK Stadium to face DC United (7:30 PM ET). With Columbus now five points behind DC for the sixth and final playoff spot, a win vaults them firmly into the playoff discussion with four games remaining afterwards.
Photo courtesy of Columbus Crew SC Communications.