Mendoza the difference as Crew avenge Santos loss

Peruvian import scores the winner for inspired hosts

COLUMBUS – This time the Crew didn’t leave Crew Stadium embarrassed.

Following a disheartening 4-0 loss in MLS play on Saturday against Seattle Sounders FC, the Crew played one of its more inspired matches of the season Tuesday and downed Mexico’s Santos Laguna 1-0 in a CONCACAF Champions League Group B game.

“After the game against Seattle we responded very well,” coach Robert Warzycha said. “They left their hearts on the field. When you do that, you are rewarded.”

Their jackpot came in the form of Peruvian forward Andres Mendoza, who wasn’t with the club when for a 1-0 loss to Santos in Mexico on Aug. 24. He joined the Crew on Sept. 4 and on Tuesday fired the winner from 23 yards in the 87th minute after a pass from Jason Garey and fortuitous bounce off a Santos defender.

“I basically turned around and shot,” Mendoza said.

Garey, who entered at the start of the second half when Emilio Renteria experienced tightness in his groin, was impressed.

“I was trying to do a give-and-go with Andres,” Garey said. “He tried to play it back. It kind of bounced around and he spun around and hit a great shot. It was a great finish.”

There was also good and maybe not-so good news after the game. A yellow card initially given to defender Andy Iro in the 73rd minute would have forced him to miss the Crew’s next Champions League match. After a review, however, the caution was issued to midfielder Kevin Burns, and Iro will be eligible when the Crew play in Guatemala against Municipal on Sept 29.

Center back Chad Marshall, however, was kicked in the side of the head in the 64th minute by Oribe Peralta and had to leave the game. The MLS Defender of the Year each of the last two seasons had a series of concussions in 2007 that forced him to miss the final two months of the season.

Crew team physician Dr. Pete Edwards said Marshall was not experiencing symptoms of a concussion after the game but he will be reevaluated Wednesday.

It was an otherwise positive night for the Crew, much better than the first meeting when they had a goal disallowed before allowing the winner in the 93rd minute.

“We had more of the ball the last game,” Santos assistant coach Sal Reyes said. “We were sharper. We had more chances. This was also a tight game. They were sharper in the end and managed the chance they had.”

“We fought from the first minute to the last minute,” midfielder Eddie Gaven said. “This was big. Losing 4-0 at home (to Seattle) is never good. The guys worked really, really hard to get a 1-0 win.”

The Crew won despite sitting leading scorer Guillermo Barros Schelotto. Santos’ top goal getter Christian Benitez also did not play.

The Crew won all three games in Crew Stadium during group play, but finish with two on the road, including Joe Public of Trinidad on Oct. 21. Santos host Joe Public on Sept. 29 and Municipal on Oct. 19.