By DAN KARELL
With his team struggling to score, Ethan Finlay has stepped up to be the Columbus Crew’s top scoring option.
Finlay took advantage of a crucial Colorado Rapids mistake midway through the second half and punished them, giving the Crew a deserved point in a 1-1 draw on Friday at Dicks Sporting Goods Park. Clint Irwin made a number of crucial saves as the Crew attacked down the flanks and on set pieces, while Vicente Sanchez was influential at the other end.
In fact, it was Sanchez who nearly put the Rapids up 1-0 as he latched onto a long ball, shielded off Crew defender Eric Gehrig, and fired a volley that was tipped away by Crew goalkeeper Steve Clark in the 2nd minute.
In the 19th minute, Finlay beat Drew Moor to a ball in the box and crossed to Crew midfielder Ben Speas, who was starting in place of the injured Federico Higuain, but Rapids defender Shane O’Neill put his body in the way of Speas shot and blocked it.
Both teams had a couple of more chances but a controversial moment came in the 56th minute, when Speas crossed into the middle on a counterattack and found Jairo Arrieta who scored. The goal was called back though by the far-side linesman for offside, as Arrieta just strayed inches ahead of Speas out on the right.
Only three minutes later, the Rapids got on the board via the head of Sanchez. Marvell Wynne was given space to run down the right wing and he crossed a ball into the middle of the box. Both Sanchez and Gehrig went for the ball but Sanchez got there first and redirected it past Clark for the game’s opening goal.
Irwin was on his game after the goal as he made saves on Tony Tchani, Adam Bedell, and Jairo Arrieta to keep his side up a goal. However, a poor mistake from Dillon Powers would set the gears in motion for a Crew goal.
A poor back pass in the 76th minute from Powers was stolen by Arrieta, who turned and looked at his options. The Costa Rican played Finlay into the box and though midfielder Jared Watts got a touch on it, Finlay was still able to guide the ball past Irwin to tie the score.
The draw extends the Rapids recent run of form to just one loss in their past six games, but it’s a tough draw for the Crew, who have won just once since March and lost Hector Jimenez to a scary injury when Sanchez flew into a challenge with his studs up. Sanchez could be hearing from the MLS Disciplinary Committee later this week.
Here are the game highlights: