Crew rally for 2-1 victory at Seattle

SEATTLE (AP) Justin Meram scored in the final minute of second-half stoppage time, lifting the Columbus Crew to a 2-1 victory over the Seattle Sounders on Saturday night.

Meram’s winning score was set up by Federico Higuain’s corner kick. The ball went beyond the top of the penalty area to Meram, who drilled a 25-yarder into the back right corner past Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei.

The Crew (3-0-0) have won their first three games for the first time in the club’s 19-year history.

”I was just lucky enough that the play happened,” said Meram, who entered in the 89th minute. ”(Higuain) is one of the best players in the league. He recognized it, played it to me, I saw an opening and just went for it.”

”I practice that shot a lot – to be honest, maybe too much,” Meram added. ”But it paid off tonight.”

Sounders coach Sigi Schmid wondered aloud if the final play should have been stopped.

”Usually, the referee positions himself outside the 18 when a corner kick is taken. I rarely see a referee’s position almost inside the 6-yard box, so it looked like he was talking to our players,” Schmid said. ”And if you’re talking to our players, why do you let the ball get played?

”If you’re going to talk to one of our players then you got to stop the play. But that doesn’t make an excuse for us for falling asleep and still more players need to pay attention there so we don’t get caught.”

Coupled with Columbus’ 3-0-1 preseason record, the Crew have yet to lose under the direction of first-year coach and former U.S. national team player Gregg Berhalter.

”I don’t think you could have seen it,” Berhalter said of the fast start. ”We knew we wanted to develop, we knew we wanted to grow as a team, and we knew we wanted to improve. We’ve made strides in every game that we’ve played. The guys have accepted the way we want to play, and that’s been key.”

Higuain converted a penalty kick late in the 59th minute to tie it at 1. Higuain has two of his three goals this season on PKs. Last year, he scored a team-record six times in eight opportunities from the spot.

Kenny Cooper scored early in the 23rd minute for the Sounders (2-2-0). It his first goal since being acquired in an offseason trade with FC Dallas.

Higuain’s penalty kick was set up when Dominic Oduro was taken down in the box by Seattle defender Djimi Traore, who subsequently was shown a straight red card by referee Allen Chapman. Higuain drove his shot into the upper center of the net, with Frei diving to the right.