When the final whistle chirped Saturday night – 45 minutes later than expected due to a weather delay – it felt like an important point for the Crew in the early portion of the 2022 campaign.
It wasn’t a season-defining game, and it didn’t need to be. But it was a hard-earned point that can potentially go a long way in where the Black & Gold sit in the final Eastern Conference standings.
Columbus snapped a three-game losing streak – four games across all competitions – on Saturday night when it played to a scoreless draw with Sporting Kansas City at Children’s Mercy Park.
“In a lot of ways, it’s sort of a great road blueprint,” head coach Caleb Porter said after the draw. “If we find the one goal, but I think it gives us a little bit of momentum, it stops the bleeding. And I told the guys going into these two games that if we took four points, we'd be back into the rhythm of the season.
“Sometimes the best thing you can do is just buckle down and defend and make sure that you don't lose, and that's really important. I think you're seeing with our team, we're in every game.”
As Porter pointed out, the draw stopped “the bleeding” for a Crew side that worked through adversity.
Yes, there was the losing streak, but playmaker Lucas Zelarayán missed the match with a knee injury, forcing the club to generate attacking opportunities without it’s No. 10. And then on Friday, one day before the match, the team traded former Designated Player Gyasi Zardes to the Colorado Rapids. The move also meant Columbus was playing without another striker and a player who ranks third in team history for goals scored.
On top of the absences, Porter also deployed a 4-3-3 formation in league play for the first time. Aidan Morris, who hadn’t started a league match since November 2020, replaced Zelarayán, and an on-loan James Igbekeme offered attacking support on the left wing.
“I thought Miggy [Miguel Berry] ran really hard, he battled,” Porter said. “Obviously, we only made one sub. It's easy to forget too, we didn't have Luis Diaz or Lucas Zelarayán, and we didn't have much off the bench to give us a lift. I thought Aidan Morris was excellent. On the day I thought James, I thought the midfield three of Darlington [Nagbe], Artur and Aiden, those guys were all over the place, you know, in a good way, and very rangy, very dynamic. But the back four was excellent.
“So, you look at the team. I mean, there's seven, eight guys that did their jobs and can't do any more, you know, including our goalkeeper, and they put their shift in and what I liked though, is that when we didn't score the first couple of chances, the group didn't get rattled or frustrated. We just kept plugging away.”
And now the Crew will have an opportunity to build on the SKC draw this Saturday when the Black & Gold host D.C. United at Lower.com Field. Columbus enters the game with nine points from eight games, while D.C. has as many points from seven matches.
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