Crew too cunning for Whitecaps

VANCOUVER — Jeff Cunningham’s record-tying goal caused more heartbreak for the Vancouver Whitecaps.

VANCOUVER — Jeff Cunningham’s record-tying goal caused more heartbreak for the Vancouver Whitecaps.

Cunningham scored the game’s lone goal in the 90th minute to give
Columbus a 1-0 win over Vancouver in Major League Soccer action
Wednesday. Cunningham, who came on as a substitute in the second half,
tied the all-time MLS record of 133 career goals, shared with former
D.C. United star Jaime Moreno.

The landmark goal came after Crew goalkeeper William Hesmer stopped
Vancouver midfielder Terry Dunfield on a penalty kick in the 73rd
minute. The Whitecaps were also playing a man down after Shea Salinas
was ejected with 12 minutes left in the game.

``I thought the game was a bit open but after the red card, we got
control of the match from that point on, and I was happy to come on and
get the game winner,’’ Cunningham said.

The loss continued Vancouver’s season-long trend of near-misses and
late losses. Columbus (7-5-6) ended a two-game losing streak even
though Vancouver had the edge in scoring chances.

The Whitecaps dropped to 2-9-8 as they suffered their second straight
league loss and third consecutive setback overall, including Nutrilite
Canadian championship play.

Vancouver dropped to 1-4-2 under new coach Tom Soehn since he replaced the fired Teitur Thordarson at the end of May.

``We have to reward ourselves,’’ Soehn said. ``Those are opportunities
that you have to take advantage of. Obviously, we didn’t.’’

Cunningham, a 34-year-old native of Montego Bay, Jamaica, gave the Crew
its second win in two meetings with Vancouver. Columbus posted a 2-1
home victory over the Whitecaps on April 30.

Deep in the Whitecaps’ 18-yard box, Cunningham headed in a cross from Josh Gardner on a play that developed from a corner kick.

That goal stood as the winner, thanks to a big save from Hesmer when he dived to his right to stop Dunfield’s penalty kick.

``We made some mistakes but Vancouver wasn’t able to capitalize on
them,’’ he said. ``The Dunfield save was a big save at a big moment and
it took the wind out of Vancouver’s sail, and the red card changed the
game as well.’’

It looked like Dunfield flubbed the shot, but he said he got as much as
he could on it. The penalty was awarded when Columbus midfielder Dejan
Rusmir fouled Alain Rochat in the box as he was trying to field
Dunfield’s long, high free kick. After committing the foul, Rusmir
looked to the sky and clasped his hands.

``I wanted the ball,’’ Dunfield said. ``Some days, they go in and I’m the hero. Other days, they don’t.’’

Dunfield took the penalty because Vancouver played without top scorer
Eric Hassli, who suffered a leg injury Saturday in a 2-1 loss to
Toronto in the second leg of the Nutrilite final.

``We rely on senior guys to come in and put a stamp on the game, and it wasn’t (Dunfield’s) night tonight,’’ Soehn said.

As a result of Hassli’s absence, 17-year-old rookie striker Omar Salgado made his second straight MLS start.

Whitecaps captain Jay DeMerit (groin) and Davide Chiumiento (hamstring)
also sat out with injuries. Dunfield was relegated to reserve status
before subbing on in the second half, while speedy super-sub Nizar
Khalfan made his first start since April 10 at Houston.

Columbus was also missing a number of key players due to injuries and
suspensions, including Emilio Renteria (quadriceps) who scored both
goals in the previous game against Vancouver.

The combination of Salgado and Brazilian striker Camilo proved
effective for the Whitecaps as they dominated the first half and forced
Columbus goalkeeper Hesmer to make four saves.

Moments before half-time, the Columbus ’keeper caught a break as
Salinas beat him from a sharp angle but the ball hit the post, causing
fans to groan in frustration.

The Whitecaps outshot Columbus 11-7 in the first half. Hesmer also robbed Camilo from point-blank range in the 51st minute.

Vancouver lost Salinas in the 78th minute as he was red-carded for kneeing Gardner during a collision.

``I feel to blame,’’ Salinas said. ``Once we went to 10 men, I changed the game, so I feel like I cost the team there.’’

Notes: Camilo and Koffie were carded for hard tackles in the first
half. ... Columbus midfielder Eric Gehrig received a yellow card in the
74th minute while teammate Chad Marshall took one in the 85th. ...
Before the game, the Whitecaps held a moment of silence for late former
owner Milan Ilich, who died June 29 of leukemia. Whitecaps players also
sported black armbands in tribute to him. ... Vancouver’s Dunfield will
be suspended for a game on his next yellow card. ... Columbus defender
Andy Iro sat out due to a red card in Dallas while midfielder Emmanuel
Ekpo was banned because of his fifth yellow card of the season, all
received in the Texas City ... Crew rookie midfielder Rich Balchan
(groin) did not play after getting hurt Saturday in Dallas.

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