Head coach Wilfried Nancy made it clear that the Columbus Crew’s 1-1 draw with the Philadelphia Union on Saturday night at Lower.com Field was a game the Club can build upon entering the biggest week of the regular season.
In a matchup between two high-powered Eastern Conference sides, the points were split, but the Black & Gold showed off its attacking prowess that’s powered the Club throughout 2023. Other than one moment, the defense was steady too, which pleased Nancy.
“We did a good game,” he said. “Overall, we did a good game against a difficult team as you know because as soon as they have the ball, they are really good to counterattack. We controlled what we needed to control. Yes, they had two shots on target, and after that, a few shots also but off target so we controlled that, knowing that this is a really good team usually in terms of expected goals and in terms also on shots on target so we did it well.”
The Columbus attack dominated in the first half, as the home team forced Philadelphia to bunker in. Former MLS Goalkeeper of the Year Andre Blake had to prove his credentials, as the Crew finished the game with nine shots on target.
Philadelphia was limited to two on goal – one of which frustrated Nancy and his players. In the 50th minute, the visitors jumped in front through an in-swinging corner that Nathan Harriel nodded in.
“On that one, yeah, we cannot defend a corner like this,” Nancy said.
Cucho Hernández equalized the match later in the second half, though, when he converted a penalty. In the 70th minute, he attempted a long-range freekick. A Union defender was penalized for a hand ball, and two minutes later, Cucho had his 14th goal of the year.
With the draw, the Crew now sits fifth in the Eastern Conference standings, while Philadelphia is in fourth. In many ways, Saturday night’s sold-out showdown felt like an early postseason match with intense moments and a brilliant atmosphere.
“We have games left, and we're going to face three teams that we are together [in the table] so it is normal to think about it and to prepare also for that because I wanted to put the context in front of the players and in front of us also,” Nancy said. “They have responded well.”
The Black & Gold continue their campaign Wednesday night with a midweek match at the New England Revolution. The Revs have played one less match but are third in the conference – two points above the Crew.
The significance of every match will only grow over the next three games, but Wednesday will be another night in which Columbus, with a win, can leapfrog its opponent and potential clinch home-field advantage in the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs.
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