It was a routine goal kick when Eloy Room sent the ball toward the midfield line. But then he felt a right thigh injury, leaned over and realized he needed to be substituted out of the match.
The problem was the Columbus Crew had already used up all their five substitutions.
“Eloy (looked) over to the sideline, we have no subs and he’s like, ‘You know what, I’m going to stay in goal,’” Gyasi Zardes said of his goalkeeper.
In a game where the Crew already had their backs to the wall, Room’s injury compounded the adversity the Black & Gold were dealing with inside Gillette Stadium on Saturday night.
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But Room’s ability to persevere allowed the Crew to hold off the league-leading New England Revolution, as the match ended in a 1-1 draw that gave Columbus a key road point.
“He’s extremely solid,” head coach Caleb Porter said of Room, who finished the match with six saves. “We think he’s obviously one of the best goalkeepers in the League; wouldn’t trade him for anyone.”
Beginning in the 90th minute, Room made three saves while he was injured and visibly struggling to continue. With “the mobility of a foosball figurine” as Neil Sika noted during the match broadcast, Room would position himself to make a save, then bounce into position on the other side of goal to deny the Revolution again and again from scoring.
“He’s playing through an injury, and he made big-time saves that allow us to come away from this game with a point,” Zardes said. “It shows how resilient Eloy is and it shows his characteristics of being a warrior. He’s a warrior in the goal and he always makes big-time saves, but he also hung in there for us through the pain.”
While Room was able to continue playing, he was also the last line of defense for a visiting side under siege for large portions of the night. The Revolution had 33 total shots to the Crew’s six, but the Black & Gold backline only allowed seven shots on target.
In fact, had the Crew not given away possession to allow Adam Buksa to score the equalizing goal in the 62nd minute, Columbus could’ve left Foxborough with three points. Regardless, the Crew earning a draw was an impressive result, as New England has a 10-point lead over Seattle Sounders FC in the Supporters Shield race.
If last Tuesday’s 2-1 win dramatic win over the New York Red Bulls was the most pivotal win of the season to date, the draw against the Revolution could prove to be one of the defining road performances of 2021. With notable players out, a hobbling goalkeeper and a stat line that reads New England outshot Columbus by 27 shots, the Crew delivered a sturdy, commendable performance.
“These are games that you have to go through throughout a season,” Josh Williams said. “It’s a huge point, especially with where we’re at. We’re trying to do it all, grind out the next 10, nine, games here and hopefully play a lot more attractive soccer than that.
“I think this point goes a long way not only in the standings but as far as the guys collectively getting together in the locker room here and then realizing that if we need to, we can bunker down and defend like dogs is what I kept telling everybody – ten minutes to defend like dogs, five minutes to defend like dogs – you just have to have that mentality sometimes.”