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Crew steals win from Union with late goal

CALL IT pilfering.

It will now take a miracle for the Union to get to the MLS playoffs. (Michael Perez/AP)
It will now take a miracle for the Union to get to the MLS playoffs. (Michael Perez/AP)Read more

CALL IT pilfering.

It's what the Columbus Crew came in and did to a Union side desperately looking for three points at home. With a minute to go in second-half stoppage, Crew forward Eddie Gaven coolly tapped home a low cross from midfielder Justin Meram to steal a 2-1 win in front of 16,568 in attendance at PPL Park, inching ever closer to securing the fifth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

The Crew (11-8-6, 39 points) is tied with Montreal for fifth in points.

As for the Union, it was another demoralizing loss, fueled by a lack of finishing. One hates to write the same-old, but it was again a plethora of chances created, with an inability to finish them.

"I can't really describe the frustration right now, to be honest with you," said a dejected Danny Cruz, who sat in his stall staring at the floor. "It's becoming a theme of playing well and not getting a win. At the end [of games], we are pushing there knowing we have to win, and they get one past us. It's agonizingly frustrating, to be honest with you."

In a match in which it yearned for an offensive spark, the Union (7-13-4, 25 points) waited until the 76th minute to insert the player believed to be its most important.

Love him or hate him (and, yes, among the fans, there is a divide), Freddy Adu entered for Jack McInerney, but it mattered little. The Union held a 65-35 edge in second-half possession, but its breakdown in stoppage put the playoff picture further and further out of reach.

"When you are playing defensively, you need someone that is going to open the game up, and that's what we thought we got out of Freddy," Union interim boss John Hackworth said. "We'll have to look at the game tape to see if he actually did that."

The Union did strike first, when, in the 29th minute, a free kick from defender Carlos Valdes found its way far post past Crew goalkeeper Matt Lampson. It marked the Union's first tally in two matches, 200 minutes since the team scored in a 1-1 tie at D.C. United on Aug. 19. In addition, the Union has not gotten a goal from an offensive player since Adu and McInerney tallied in a 2-1 win over New England on July 29.

Valdes left the match in the 54th minute with what he later said was a hamstring "pull." Valdes walked into the training room on his own accord, but said he left because he didn't want to risk further injury. He said he was eager to learn the team doctors' diagnosis on Thursday.

The Union also has a knack for making its opponents see red. For the second time in three matches, a scuffle broke out that halted the game and found an official reaching into his pocket. This time, rookie forward Antoine Hoppenot was the culprit, incensing Crew defender Josh Williams enough that Williams ferociously shoved Hoppenot to the ground and stood over him. Following the scuffle, official Yader Reyes pulled a yellow card out of his pocket before shoving it back in, exchanging it for a red one and showing it to Williams. For Hoppenot, yellow was the final verdict.

"I don't want to talk about it. You can look at the video and figure out what happened," Hoppenot said. "Look, it's a rough game out there, and you know that'll happen sometime. I don't know what to say. This is a tough game, not to get any points out of."

The Union will board a flight Friday for a Saturday night showdown with the New England Revolution. The Union has had success at New England, and hopes for the same in a match in which a win could swing fortunes. The Union, 16 points behind the final playoff spot with only 10 matches remaining, is not mathematically out of the playoff picture.

But it will now take a miracle for the team to get there.

"Obviously, we have to work on our finishing and really just stay positive," Cruz said. "At least at this point we need to continue to push for the playoffs until we are mathematically out of it and play for the fans, if nothing else. I can't stress that enough."