Facing the Kickers for the third time in the Open Cup, Crew SC won their first road match of the season to advance to the tournament’s round of 16. Columbus will learn its opponent and round of 16 location Thursday and will play June 30 or July 1.
Crew SC will have Michael Parkhurst available after serving a suspension for a red card earned in last year’s tourney.
As is the case with many cup contests featuring MLS teams, the stronger foes tend to play new sides.
It was no different for Crew SC, as coach Gregg Berhalter used a 3-5-2 formation, rather than his normal 4-2-3-1, with numerous fresh faces.
One of those fresh faces was Bedell, who hadn’t earned a start all year. Still, the 6-foot-7 striker made the most of his season debut, putting two balls in the back of the net.
“It was big for me, I haven’t seen anytime with the first team this year, so to get two goals in my first start is special,” Bedell said.
Early on, the pace played in favor of the MLS side as Crew SC controlled much of the possession.
“The guys worked extremely hard and did exactly what we asked them to do,” Berhalter said. “They stayed concentrated, they stayed focused and moved the ball quickly, and it wasn’t easy against a well-organized opponent.”
The dominance in possession led to a perfect chance down the right flank in the 13th minute. Midfielder Ben Speas sped down the wing, beating his man to the outside and creating space for a cross. Bedell broke towards the cross, beating Kickers goalkeeper Ryan Taylor to the ball and heading the ball into the net from the near post to give the visitors a 1-0 lead.
“Once the ball gets wide my first thing is to make a good run whether it’s near post or far post,” Bedell said. “I was the first guy, so I shot in front of their center backs and the ball was perfect from Ben Speas, doesn’t get any better.”
Once the Crew took the lead, Richmond’s pace picked up and they began to press forward. Leading the way was the smallest man on the field, 5-foot-9 Fred Owusu Sekyere — his pace giving the Kickers their first chance as he blasted a shot high and wide in the 23rd minute.
A foul a minute later gave Owusu an even better scoring chance. In the 24th minute, the midfielder lined up the free kick 25 yards out and to the left of the goal. With one strike, Owusu wrapped the ball around the wall, beating Brad Stuver and equalizing the contest, 1-1.
Crew SC broke down the Kickers defense in the 42nd minute when midfielder Hector Jimenez broke away from his defender on the right wing and took advantage of the good look, striking a cross far post.
Taylor seemingly gobbled up the attempt, but a bobble allowed the ball to get loose in the box and forward Ethan Finley capitalized, putting the ball in the net, allowing Columbus to regain the lead, 2-1.
“There were times in the first half where we were really patient and we were able to get some good looks,” Jimenez said.
Crew SC led in both shots (9-3) and corner kicks (3-0) at the break as the MLS side kept the pressure high the entire half and doubled up the Kickers shot total for the game (14-7) and corners (6-3).
Starting the second half, neither team pressed the ball, but Columbus maintained the possession they had in the first.
“It was the quick ball movement when we switched field and opened up spaces,” Berhalter said. “Once we had the ball in the spaces in the side we were taking advantage of that.”
The possession paid off in the 63rd minute as Bedell had just enough space in the box to lob a shot over Taylor, hitting the far upper 90 and bouncing into the net.
“We possessed the ball really well the whole game and really pinned them back, and that was the result of our build up,” said Bedell. “Tony (Tichani) played a really good ball and I got turned and no one stepped to me, so it was just instinct to go far post and I did.”
The striker’s second goal of the contest extended the visitor’s lead out to 3-1.
“We were coming here to get a W and everyone came here with that mentality and at the end of the day, it wasn’t easy,” Jimenez said. “It’s a team that took us a little bit to break down and it was huge to get that first goal, because once we got that first one we really opened up.”
FULL MATCH REPLAY: COLUMBUS CREW AT RICHMOND KICKERS