When Crew supporters took a first glimpse at the 2022 schedule, there’s no doubt Saturday’s match was one of the marque games this season. Carlos Vela and the Western Conference-favorites, Los Angeles FC, were set to play their first match at Lower.com Field in a mid-afternoon tilt.
But by the time the match finally arrived, the pre-match buildup was replaced by rain and rumbles of thunder. A 3:30 p.m. kickoff soon became 4, and so on. When the match finally started at 6:42 p.m., it lasted 2:34 before players were rushed off once more for a weather delay. Black & Gold checkered flags were rolled up and drums were carried toward the concourse.
This wasn’t how Saturday was supposed to go. And, fittingly, the result ran a similar course.
Despite the delays, the Columbus Crew produced one of its best first halves of the season, only to see a good game washed away by uncharacteristic errors.
When the final whistle chirped more than six hours after the expected kickoff time, the Crew players exited the field one last time, and to a 2-0 defeat to LAFC.
“Today, it was very cruel,” head coach Caleb Porter after the result. “I thought it was one of our best first 60 minutes of the year, we came out, you could see visibly from the first minute, our energy. And that's after jacking the guys around for basically two, three hours, we had to tell them seven times that they were going out and then they're not going out. And you know, their team had to deal with it too. So, there's no rhythm.”
It felt like the waiting finally paid off 10 minutes into the second half, though, when Yaw Yeboah put the Crew in front – only for the goal to be disallowed when the Ghanaian was ruled offside.
The visitors took the lead in the 62nd minute when a wayward back pass allowed Carlos Vela to slide in from the right wing and slot a shot past goalkeeper Eloy Room.
LAFC doubled the Columbus deficit in 11 minutes later when a Crew mistake led to José Cifuentes scoring the match’s final goal.
“The second goal was a mistake that I've never personally ever seen out of Darlington [Nagbe],” Porter said. “He's the best possession player in the last decade. He is the best ball-playing midfielder in the last decade, the analytics show that and he feels horrible. You know, he feels horrible because he cares so much and that entire locker room feels horrible, and I feel horrible for them that it's another game they don't get a result because I thought they deserved something out of the game.”
With the defeat, the Crew’s next match is at Atlanta United FC next Saturday before a break that won’t see the Black & Gold play again until mid-June.
“We're still in the first third of the year,” Porter said. “We're entering kind of mid-season in the next several games. And I think these two games in a row allow us to kind of see how far we're off from where we want to be at the end, because New York City and LAFC are going to be in around that MLS Cup, for sure.
“So, I think we're close in a lot of ways. And I think we're far off in a few ways as well. …It's my job as well to continue to find solutions for how we can do better.”
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