The Columbus Crew clinched a spot in the Major League Soccer playoffs Saturday night as they hammered the MetroStars 4-2 at Crew Stadium behind the efforts of forward Edson Buddle, who scored all four goals for the Crew.
It was a resiliant effort by the Crew as they had to comeback twice after falling behind in the top-of-the-conference clash with the Crew (10-5-10), who now lead the Eastern Conference by four points over the MetroStars (10-10-6).
Buddle is only the sixth player in MLS’ nine-year history to score four goals in a match. The gaggle of goals brings his season total to 10.
“Anything in the box I’m trying to put away. It may not always look that way but that’s my goal every time I am out there,” Buddle said in a media release. “The four goals feel good. My teammates did a good job of finding me.”
The Crew did not get off to a good start to either half as John Wolyniec volleyed in the opener for the MetroStars in the sixth minute and Eddie Gaven deflected in an Amado Guevara freekick in the 49th.
But in between the two goals for the visitors, Buddle blasted off.
He scored his first goal in the ninth minute as the MetroStars defense bungled the offside trap, allowing Kyle Martino to find Buddle all alone, who raced towards Metros goalkeeper Jonny Walker and shot it deftly over Walker and into the net.
The second goal and equalizer came in the 52nd minute and was off Buddle’s head as he latched on to rookie Chris Wingert’s lofted cross through the penalty area. Buddle, who was totally unmarked by the Metros’ shambolic defense, duly headed past a hopeless Walker.
“It’s the right time for (Buddle) to be warming up. He’s a bit streaky. He’s had a few games where he’s had some really close calls,” Crew coach Greg Andrulis said in a media release. “He’s a kid who has a tremendous amount of potential, and I thought he played pretty well tonight, obviously.”
Buddle gave the Crew their first lead of the night after subsitute Jeff Cunningham sliced another pass through the MetroStars’ defense to find Buddle streaking towards goal, where he calmly beat Walker again. It was Buddle’s first career hat trick.
Metros coach Bob Bradley was unhappy with the way his defense handled the Columbus attack.
“I think we allowed them a little too much time on the ball, and we didn’t close down their forwards like we needed to. Anything a guy gets four goals, you are allowing him too many opportunities,” he said in a media release. “(Buddle) is a dangerous guy, and we know that coming into the game. In terms of closing him down and making certain plays, we didn’t do a good enough job.”
Buddle finished out the evening by receiving yet another Cunningham pass behind the MetroStars’ defense. This time, Buddle raced down the right side of the field and shot it underneath Walker again as the substantial crowd of 18,233 erupted with delerium.
Andrulis was also happy with the play of his enigmatic forward Cunningham, who came off the bench in the 58th minute for Kyle Martino and promptly setup two Crew goals.
“Jeff Cunningham made a world of difference and opened the game up for us with two great balls to Edson,” he said.