Columbus, Ohio — Behind a controversial second half penalty kick, the streaking Columbus Crew defeated the Philadelphia Union 2-1 on Saturday to move six points ahead of Philadelphia atop the Eastern Conference standings.
The Union arrived in Columbus just six hours before kick off after travel delays from thunderstorms cancelled Philadelphia’s Friday flight.
Veljko Paunovic equalized in the first half after Emilo Renteria opened the scoring for the home side, but Andres Mendoza snuck a PK past Faryd Mondragon when Sheanon Williams was whistled for a hand ball in the area despite keeping his arms within the frame of his body.
Robbie Rogers earned the decisive penalty five minutes after halftime when he attempted a cross from the left and put the ball off the arm of Williams. Mendoza converted the spot kick, which ended up serving as the game-winner.
The Crew first got on the board in the 37th minute. Rogers worked deep into Union territory on the left wing and sent a cross into Philadelphia's six-yard box. Cutting to the near post, Renteria got the slightest of touches towards the far post, just enough to send the ball trickling in before Mondragon or defender Gabriel Farfan could clear the line.
The Union equalized in the 42nd minute off the team’s seventh corner of the first half. Keon Daniel curled a perfectly-placed ball to the far post over the outstretched arms of a leaping Hesmer to the head of Paunovic, who finished with composure into an open net. The goal was the third of the season for Paunovic.
While the Crew slowed the pace of the match down with a 2-1 lead in hand, Philadelphia nearly stole a point at the death. In the 89th minute, Williams ran to the endline and drove a low cross across Columbus' area. A sliding Paunovic came inches away from tapping into an empty net, but the ball was just out of reach and then cleared away.
Despite an opportunity for Sebastien Le Toux on a low shot that was saved by Hesmer in stoppage time, the Union were ultimately unable to find an equalizer.
With the loss, the Union are now winless in their last five matches after beating the New England Revolution 3-0 on July 17.
The Union return to action next Sunday when the Revolution travel to PPL Park. The match will begin at 7:00 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet.
CLB -- Emilio Renteria 6 (Robbie Rogers 5, Andres Mendoza 2) 37
PHI -- Veljko Paunovic 3 (Keon Daniel 2) 42
CLB -- Andres Mendoza 8 (penalty kick) 51
Philadelphia Union -- Faryd Mondragon, Sheanon Williams, Danny Califf, Carlos Valdes, Gabriel Farfan, Justin Mapp (Michael Farfan 60), Stefani Miglioranzi, Veljko Paunovic, Keon Daniel (Jack McInerney 73), Sebastien Le Toux, Danny Mwanga (Freddy Adu 60).
Substitutes Not Used: Kyle Nakazawa, Amobi Okugo, Zach Pfeffer, Zac MacMath.
Columbus Crew -- William Hesmer, Sebastian Miranda, Chad Marshall, Julius James, Josh Gardner, Justin Meram (Dilly Duka 60), Kevin Burns, Emmanuel Ekpo, Robbie Rogers, Andres Mendoza (Bernardo Anor 76), Emilio Renteria (Tommy Heinemann 70).
Substitutes Not Used: Eric Gehrig, Cole Grossman, Danny O'Rourke, Andy Gruenebaum.
CLB -- William Hesmer (caution; Dissent) 42
CLB -- Julius James (caution; Enters without Permission) 58
CLB -- Tommy Heinemann (caution; Dissent) 84
PHI -- Michael Farfan (caution; Reckless Foul) 92+
PHI -- Carlos Valdes (caution; Reckless Foul) 93+
Referee: Mark Kadlecik
Referee's Assistants: Chris Strickland; Peter Balciunas
4th Official: Allen Chapman
Time of Game: 1:52