There are dream starts to big games. And then there's the unbelievable beginning that the Columbus Crew got to open the first leg of their Eastern Conference Championship against the New York Red Bulls on Sunday.
It took all of nine seconds for the Crew to take the lead, as Justin Meram scored the fastest goal in MLS Cup playoff history to shock the Red Bulls, the Supporters' Shield winner and No. 1 overall seed on the way to a 2-0 home victory.
A long ball right off the opening kickoff found Kei Kamara, who headed the ball forward into the 18-yard box and into the path of a sprinting Ethan Finlay. With a soft header of his own, Finlay had momentary control of the ball before colliding into Red Bull defenders Kemar Lawrence and Matt Miazga.
Finlay, however, got just enough of a second touch with his left foot (or leg) to nudge the ball to the oncoming Meram, who pounced on the loose ball and fired a strike past helpless goalkeeper Luis Robles for the stunning 1-0 lead.
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) November 22, 2015
Kamara's late goal added to the misery of the Red Bulls, who now return to Red Bull Arena next Sunday having to overcome a two-goal deficit with the danger of the away goal looming. Jesse Marsch, one of the rising American coaching stars in MLS, surely will have a plan to revive an NYRB attack that scored a league-best 62 goals and tighten up a defense that conceded the East's fewest goals with 43.