CHESTER, Pa. -- In a span of six minutes, the Union routed the Columbus Crew.
Despite not getting any production from leading scorer Jack McInerney, the Union received first-half goals from Brian Carroll, Sheanon Williams and Conor Casey to take down the Crew, 3-0, on Wednesday night at PPL Park.
“We were due one of these games,” said Union coach John Hackworth, whose club is coming off a tough draw to Toronto FC. “We felt like it would happen sooner or later. We’re glad it happened in a game as important as this one.”
The win gives the Union some space in the Eastern Conference standings. At 6-5-4, they are now in a three-way tie for third place with 22 points, while the Crew remain outside of the playoff picture with 17 points.
“For us to be able to put on that kind of performance and get the three points, get the separation from Columbus,” Hackworth said,” it was important for us.”
After trading minor chances with the Crew for the opening 25 minutes, Carroll broke the contest open with a headstrong play at the top of the box. Jumping into space to take control of a loose ball, Carroll gained possession and fired off a low shot that deflected off of Crew defender Eric Gehrig and trickled slowly inside the right post for the 1-0 Union lead.
“I was happy to get us off on the right foot and happy we were the first ones to score,” Carroll said. “Deflection or not, I’ll take it.
“It was open. I just wanted to put something on target and see what happens. It found its way in.”
Carroll and the Union were just getting started.
Four minutes later, on a corner kick, the Union’s leading assist man Sebastien Le Toux drilled a ball into the box that was flicked to the far post by Carroll. Beating his man to the cross, a streaking Williams got a head on the ball for the 2-0 Union advantage.
“It was a great flick from B.C. and I did whatever I could to put it on target,” Williams said.
Feeling left out of the scoring, Casey got in on the action.
Off a fast break in the 31st minute, Le Toux, from the right side of the Crew box, centered a low cross that was easily headed in by Casey at the top of the crease. The veteran scorer didn’t miss, making it 3-0 Union at the half.
“I can’t tell you how nice it was to be in the last 15 minutes of that game and not have it be a drama show,” Hackworth said. “It felt like -- finally, we deserve this. We’ve been working so hard, it was nice and well deserved.”
With two assists, Le Toux took the MLS lead with six.
“The ball he played into Conor was a fantastic ball,” Hackworth said. “He always does so much work. I’ve said he was going to be so important to our club, we knew he had to be for us to be successful. He’s a guy who brings it in this building.”
Minus striker Jairo Arrieta to international duty, Eddie Gaven and defensive rock Chad Marshall to injury, the Crew were unable to muster much momentum or stop the Union’s attack. They managed seven attempts on net in the first half with only two on goal.
“This one was the kind of game we needed,” Hackworth said. “There were so many questions being asked of us -- from consistency to if we’re fit. I think we answered a lot of those questions tonight. It’s nice for the guys because they deserved it. It was a well-rounded performance from everybody. I told the players at halftime, this was the best team defense we played. Everybody did their job and did it well.”
Union goalkeeper Zac MacMath recorded his fourth shutout of the season and finished with four saves.
“Everything was important,” Williams said. “We’ve been going through a tough stretch, not playing the kind of soccer we know we can play. Tonight was a good example that when we put it all together, that’s what we can do. There are a lot of positives to take out of this.”
In the waning moments of the contest, McInerney nearly added to his MLS-leading goal total of 10 when he found space in the right side of the box and plenty of time to shoot. Taking the right-footed shot, McInerney beat the goalkeeper but missed the net wide. It was the closest he would come.
“I would have bet the house that Jack would have scored at the end,” Williams said.