In his first match filling in for Wilfried Nancy, assistant coach Kwame Ampadu said Saturday night’s loss was a disappointing result for the Columbus Crew as it enters the Leagues Cup break.
Once trailing 2-0 after 30 minutes, the Crew leveled the match through two brilliant Lucas Zelarayán goals but conceded one late in a 3-2 loss to the Portland Timbers at Providence Park.
“Very disappointing, I think to come away, to have most of the play, to have most of the possession and to create good chances, it's disappointing then to concede three goals away from home, give ourselves a mountain to climb in that,” Ampadu said of the result.
The Black & Gold found themselves in rocky terrain after conceding two goals within the span of two minutes. In the 28th minute, Portland scored when the visitors were unable to clear a corner. Two minutes later, a brisk counter attack doubled the deficit.
But Zelarayán scored his first of two goals three minutes into first half stoppage time through a stunning individual goal.
The Armenian international rounded a defender, then played a ball to Jacen Russell-Rowe, who one-timed it back to Zelarayán, who continued his run. Then, he rounded the keeper to give Columbus momentum entering the halftime break.
Zelarayán scored a second world-class goal in the 65th minute when he cleanly struck a long-range effort into the top right corner. The goal was breathtaking — and his 10th of the season, which leads the club.
“The second goal, a good build-up from the back, Steven [Moreira] went to the attack and he saw me and played back to me, a good ball as well and I just tried to shoot hard to the corner,” Zelarayán said. “It was a great goal. I am happy personally but a little upset because we lost.”
But Sebastián Blanco sealed the win for the Timbers in the 80th minute, and with that snapped the Crew’s eight game unbeaten streak.
There were positives, however. Aidan Morris was back in the lineup for the first time since June 17 after playing for the U.S. Men’s National Team in the Concacaf Gold Cup. Russell-Rowe, who had the assist on the first goal, also made his first Crew appearance since June 17 after representing Canada in the Gold Cup.
“They both played while they were away,” Ampadu said. “It's not like they haven't played, they both played when they were away. They know how we play so they stepped into it well.”
Zelarayán said the Crew will look to build upon the positives and carry them into the Leagues Cup. Next Sunday, the Black & Gold host St. Louis CITY SC at Lower.com Field in the club’s first group match. On July 31, Club América of League MX comes to the Ohio capital during the interleague tournament.
“I think we did a good game,” he said. “Obviously, we have to get better and don't give up goals. We have to defend better, it's not about the defenders, it's about the 11 players. But we have to improve because we are scoring goals and today it was a difficult game, we came back and then we gave up another goal and we lost the game. So, we have to get better in that.”
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