This past week was the most important for the Columbus Crew to date, and it was a successful one. First came the last-second draw at FC Cincinnati, then a midweek win over Inter Miami CF – which moved Columbus ahead of Miami.
So, by the time Saturday night’s scoreless draw with Chicago Fire FC came and went at Lower.com Field, head coach Caleb Porter spoke with the media and said he was disappointed to earn only a point against the Fire, but was proud of the club’s path to get to that point.
“It happens. It's not the result we wanted,” Porter said. “We don't want to be drawing games at home 0-0. From the bottom-line standpoint, we're disappointed, but I'm proud of my players and my team. One, we played to win. That was clear. We played to win. And two, they gave everything they had.
“It's the third game of a very tight window. We played a lot of the same guys. I think there was like eight guys, maybe nine that played all three games. So, I'm proud of what they gave this week. I'm proud of what they gave at the end of this game, all the way through the final whistle.”
The Crew remains sixth in the Eastern Conference standings with six regular-season matches remaining. The club has a four-point buffer with eighth-place Miami, and trails New York City FC by five points to earn the right of hosting a playoff match at Lower.com Field.
There were opportunities for the Crew to find a game winner on Saturday night against the Fire, but it was Gabriel Slonina’s breathtaking display in goal that kept the match level. On several locations it was a Crew attack with some of the best attacking players in the league going head-to-head against the arguably the league’s top young goalkeeper, and Slonina remained stout.
Columbus finished with nine shots on target, but two in particular seemed destined goals. First, Lucas Zelarayán unleashed a long-range rocket toward the top corner in the 61st minute, but Slonina parried the ball over the bar.
Two minutes later, Juan “Cucho” Hernández received a cut-back pass from Luis Díaz and fired at goal, but Slonina made a sprawling stop before the visitors cleared the ball away.
“When you look at the shots, 25 to six, nine to one on frame,” Porter said. “Their goalkeeper stood on his head four or five times, probably two or three were the best saves I've seen this year maybe out of any goalkeeper – the one (from) Lucas where he pulled it out of the upper corner, the Cucho kind of kick save. Those two in particular are normally goals.”
The Black & Gold are now unbeaten in 15 of their last 16, and the one loss came against the team’s next opponent. On Friday night, the Crew heads north to play at CF Montréal, the club that beat Columbus, 2-1, on Aug. 3. That night, the Crew had a 1-0 lead before a weather delay. When play resumed, the Club conceded two late goals.
“I’m again proud of my group,” Porter said. “Long week and we wanted two wins in a row. We ended up getting a draw. So, at home, that's a disappointment, but we're happy overall with the path that we're on.”
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