As the ball rippled in the back of the net, the Columbus Crew players stood stunned in shock as the San Jose Earthquakes ran toward the corner flag.
With the last touch of the game, in the sixth minute of stoppage time, Francisco Calvo had just scored his second header in a dozen minutes, sealing a 3-3 draw on Saturday afternoon at PayPal Park.
Following the match, Crew head coach Caleb Porter was certainly frustrated, but remained calm and put the result in perspective.
“It’s a long season, obviously it’s game two and it’s a disappointing point,” Porter said. “It’s a point on the road, but it’s three points in our hands that we don’t take. We have to learn from it. The season is about learning along the way as we get points. It’s about growing through the disappointments.
“We’re not going to the the best version of ourselves two games in. We’re going to have to learn from the last 10 minutes. It’s that simple. 3-1, the game was ours.”
San Jose took the lead nine minutes into the match when Christian Espinoza converted a penalty that was determined by VAR. But how Columbus responded to the goal told the story of the match.
In the 35th minute, Jamiro Monteiro was sent off by a tackle on Darlington Nagbe, forcing the Earthquakes to play with 10 men. Five minutes later, Steven Moreira weaved through the home side’s backline and slid a pass to Lucas Zelarayán, who dropped a shot over James Marcinkowski for the equalizer.
The Crew continued to control the pace of the match in the second half, and the Black & Gold were ultimately rewarded with two goals in five minutes. In the 68th minute, Derrick Etienne Jr., retrieved a corner that went through the 6-yard box and sent a pass into the mixer to Gyasi Zardes, who ran through a handful of stagnant San Jose defenders and smashed a shot past Marcinkowski.
In the 73rd minute, Zelarayán produced his second goal of the match – and third of the season – when he placed a free kick over the wall and into the top right corner. Deservingly in control, it felt like the Crew would return to Columbus with six points from two games.
But then a free kick conceded in the 84th minute led to Jan Gregus whipping a cross into the box, which Calvo guided past Eloy Room. In the 96th minute, the duo generated the tying goal from a corner.
“We gave away two set piece goals and that’s all they had,” Porter said. “This team is mature enough and experienced enough to not let that happen, at the very least.
“We’ve got to look at the set piece goals and why did we stop playing and why did we go direct (late in the match). We need to correct those things and brush ourselves off.”
Zardes, who produced his first goal of the young campaign, offered similar thoughts.
“It’s a tough way to end the game,” the striker said. “We have to close it out, especially when we’re up a man. It happened so fast. We know this point will go a long way at the tail end of the season, but we wanted to win.”
The Crew host Toronto FC next Saturday at Lower.com Field in the first Trillium Cup meeting of 2022. Kickoff is set for 1:30 p.m. at Lower.com Field, and tickets are still available.