Things felt different.
The second Bradley Wright-Phillips turned and slipped his shot into the net, the Nordecke unleashed a furious wall of sound – a deafening moment for a side that, for weeks, tried blocking out the noise.
Suddenly, it was embraced again as a welcome return to Lower.com Field.
But it was short-lived, however, as the Columbus Crew took a 1-0 lead in the 78th minute, only to concede the equalizer 10 minutes later, then another in the 89th.
And so, on a day when the Crew looked set to beat Seattle Sounders FC in a 2020 MLS Cup Final rematch, an unraveling two minutes led to the Black & Gold towards defeat.
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“That’s a real heartbreaker,” head coach Caleb Porter said. “I don’t know how else to put it.”
After an even first half, the home side started taking control of the match early in the second half by gradually controlling longer possessions and generating promising attacking opportunities.
Eventually, in the 77th minute, the Crew won a corner, which Lucas Zelarayán swung into the box. The effort found Jonathan Mensah, whose header bounced down toward goal, and toward Wright-Phillips. The experienced forward, with his back to goal, turned and scored his first league goal for the Crew.
It was a deserving goal, and more importantly, it felt like the one that broke the albatross that’s clung to the Crew this summer. Porter felt the same way, too.
“I’ve been in that game countless times,” he said. “Everything played out the way we wanted it to. We started the game well; we were extremely organized defensively. We kept the ball. It was a tight game. Everything we wanted to do we did in the game – everything. We get a goal; we go up 1-0, and the two minutes where we lost two goals cost us.
“I think a lot of it is psychological, it's confidence, but in saying that, I thought we looked really, really confident for 88 minutes, and very organized, and the guys gave all they had. They executed the plan to a T, and I just feel for those players in that locker room.”
Porter acknowledged that many of the Crew players who faced Seattle were playing their third match this week, while the Sounders deployed a squad with several changes and fresh legs.
“Maybe that was the difference in the end,” he said. “They had a little bit more of their legs and energy, but I wouldn’t change a thing in the game, honestly. We just needed to make a few more plays at the end of the game – it’s that simple. I know it’s crazy to hear this from me, but I’m very proud of this group. I’m very proud of the guys, and I’m disappointed that they don’t have a good feeling right now after working as hard as they worked today.”
Following the defeat, Columbus can break its losing skid next Friday night at Lower.com Field in a “Hell is Real” rematch against FC Cincinnati.
When the clubs last met on July 9, Columbus allowed two early goals and went down a man, but rallied to draw, 2-2, at TQL Stadium in Cincinnati. Afterward, it felt like momentum would swing in the Crew’s favor. Perhaps the same will happen next week.
Kickoff on Friday is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. ET.