Miguel Berry ran toward the corner flag, slid, and posed.
Behind him, teammates rushed toward the corner to celebrate with the young forward, including Eloy Room, who sprinted the length of the pitch to hug the goal scorer.
Over the course of a 34-game season, there are usually several defining moments that alter the trajectory of a club and its final position in the standings. But it’s hard to look past Tuesday night’s 2-1 win and not this that was a massive result that can jumpstart a late playoff push.
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After a poor first half that head coach Caleb Porter described as playing like “deer in headlights,” the Crew rallied from a 1-0 deficit to claw their way to the second-straight home victory at Lower.com Field.
“We needed that one,” Porter said after the win. “It took a great second half and it took every single one of the subs to pull this game out. I couldn’t be more proud of our fight, our resiliency in that second half. I think everybody saw, including our team, what it looks like when you give everything you have, when you play with hunger and when you refuse to lose.
“Certainly, the first half wasn’t good enough, the guys know that, I don’t need to rehash that with them. I got after them at halftime and challenged them to show the face of the players that they are and the team that they are. Every single guy...responded and that was great to see. I think hopefully we can clone that second half.”
Trouble started in the opening minute for Columbus, when a Pedro Santos collision with Kyle Duncan helicoptered the Portuguese winger to the grass. After that, the Crew looked numb and failed to generate attacking chances. Eventually, they were punished in the 25th minute when a failed corner kick clearance allowed Patryk Klimala space to turn and smash the ball past Room.
But the Black & Gold looked like a new Crew in the second half – a team pushing for an equalizer and seemingly aware that another loss would only grow the reality that Columbus might miss the playoffs.
Darlington Nagbe delivered the equalizer in the 74th minute when he headed the ball off the crossbar and eventually into the roof of the net. The play initially started when Alexandru Matan collected the ball on the left wing from Saad Abdul-Salaam, then jolted past five Red Bulls defenders like a lightning bolt slaloming through the final third. Matan found Lucas Zelarayán, whose shot was parried back into play toward Nagbe.
Nagbe’s celebration said it all. There was no smile and nothing to boast about. He urged his teammates to maintain the same attacking tempo and search for a final goal.
The game-winning goal eventually came in the 88th minute when the Crew countered and Berry collected the ball around the midfield line. After dribbling toward goal, he delivered a pinpoint ball toward Zelarayán on the left flank. His shot was parried toward Berry, who weaved past Andrew Gutman and snuck the ball into the net.
“I think that second half finally the lightbulb went on a bit and I thought the whole team rolled their sleeves up and refused to lose,” Porter said. “That’s the mentality we had last year. I’m hoping this is the start of our run to the playoffs and that same mentality that we created in that locker room, that belief.”
With the win, the Crew has won their last two matches at Lower.com Field and now sits one point outside of the MLS Cup Playoffs through 25 games.
Next up is a match Saturday night against the league-leading New England Revolution at Gillette Stadium.
“We have to keep fighting and we have to keep fighting hard,” Berry said. “New England on Saturday is an incredible team with fifty-some points. They’re playing incredibly well, but we can beat that team. The way we are playing at home, we can beat that team. I think we need to come, work hard for ninety minutes, leave it all out there and win. A tie is a good result but we want to win.”