When Pedro Santos whipped a low cross into the box and Lucas Zelarayán first timed a shot into the net, the goal felt like a breakthrough moment for the Crew, not just against the Union, but for the attack in general.
With a thumping goal against the Eastern Conference’s third ranked team, it felt like the fireworks arrived earlier than expected. But the excitement was short lived, however, when the goal was disallowed and it was ruled Erik Hurtado was offside on the play.
Thus, what first felt like a great moment was erased and wasn’t replaced, as the Columbus Crew drew the Philadelphia Union, 0-0, on Sunday night at Lower.com Field. So, what could’ve been a breakthrough is a reminder that things are going well, but they’re not quite great, and that’s the message that head coach Caleb Porter reiterated after the match in his post-game press conference.
“We’re defending as well as any team in the league, and our mentality is excellent,” Porter said. “Again, we’re doing things different in different games, home and away … We’re playing really well and that is not going to get lost on me. I mean, I hope it doesn’t get lost on anyone else. It’s certainly not going to get lost on me and the locker room.
“That group is disappointed that they didn’t get three points because they deserved it. They deserved it, and I don’t know how that goal was called back.”
His last comment was in regards to Zelarayán’s 66th-minute finish, which initially counted before a VAR decision ruled that Hurtado impeded Union goalkeeper Andre Blake and was therefore offside.
In addition to the disallowed goal, the Crew generated other goal-scoring opportunities but was unable to beat Blake. The club’s best chance came in the 19th minute when Pedro Santos lined up for a penalty, but his effort was saved by the Jamaican shot stopper.
“The players deserved more, I thought they played excellent today,” Porter said. “That's now five games unbeaten. Obviously, we wanted three points. I thought the players deserved three points today. But at the end of the day, I promised the players that if they played as hard as they did this week, and this game, that we would get enough points to be in the playoffs. There's no doubt about it. No doubt about it. I'm very bullish on this team, this group.”
And there’s plenty of reason to be, too.
Five games unbeaten, the Crew’s next match is Saturday at Chicago Fire FC – the 13th-place team in the Eastern Conference. That occasion could very well be the debut of Cucho Hernandez, the club record signing from Watford FC.
While Cucho was introduced last month, the summer transfer remains closed until July 7, making Saturday the first opportunity for the Colombian to join the Black & Gold.
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It's the battle for Ohio on July 17th.