Cunningham makes history ahead of a break

MLS' new goal king has had interesting timing, but team is ecstatic

The only similarity between the last time the Crew played before having an open weekend and Saturday’s humbling 6-2 defeat at Seattle Sounders FC is that Jeff Cunningham scored historic goals in both.

His penalty kick in the 59th minute to become the all-time MLS scoring leader was the lone bright spot Columbus can take into their break. The team won’t practice again until Sept. 6 with the next game four days later vs. Toronto FC.

“You’ll definitely think about the result a little bit longer, but you’ve got a week off to refocus and try to close out the season on a positive note,” defender Josh Gardner told MLSsoccer.com. “It’s going to be all good going forward.”

Cunningham’s second goal of the season and the 134th of his career diverted attention from one of the worst losses in team history. He had 62 goals as a Crew from 1998-2004 before bouncing around four teams until being re-signed by the club this year.

“He started his career with us and I’m happy he set the record with us,” said Columbus coach Robert Warzycha, a teammate of Cunningham during his first five years with the Crew.

Cunningham’s other goal came in stoppage time of a 1-0 win at Vancouver on July 6, which led into a 10-day pause in the schedule.

Actually, the long down period this time almost cost Cunningham an opportunity to set the mark he previously shared with retired D.C. United forward Jaime Moreno. He had not played since July 23 because of a troublesome right knee and Warzycha considered holding him out against Seattle, especially on the turf, to give him two more weeks to recover.

“I was able to get in some training and coach trusted me enough to include me on the roster,” Cunningham said. “To be a part of the game, I’m very blessed.”

Another record

Lost in the celebration of Cunningham’s goal was that the PK made him the Crew’s all-time leaders in point with 171, two ahead of Brian McBride.

Cunningham increased his Crew all-time goal mark to 64, also two more than the retired McBride.

By the numbers

44: Penalty-kick goals for Moreno. Cunningham has 20.

6: Goals allowed for the second time in Crew history. The other was a 6-4 loss at Kansas City on May 2, 1996.

2: Times in less than 12 months that Seattle have beaten Columbus by four goals. On Sept. 18, the 4-0 score in Crew Stadium saw the Sounders score in the fourth minute and convert a first-half penalty, as was the case Saturday.

0: Wins (0-4-3) for Warzycha against former Crew coach Sigi Schmid, including the US Open Cup final last fall.