Evan Bush sat with his hands on his knees and stared at the ground. Behind him, his net rippled for the third time Sunday afternoon, as the Columbus Crew lost, 3-0, to the Philadelphia Union at Subaru Park.
If Wednesday night’s Campeones Cup championship ceremony was a thrilling high point, Sunday afternoon’s performance was the opposite, as the Crew struggled to create attacking opportunities and couldn’t capitalize on a 11 vs. 10-man advantage for 25 minutes and missed a penalty kick at a crucial juncture in the match.
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“Very disappointing. Obviously, we – all of us, everybody – knew what was at stake in this match,” head coach Caleb Porter said after the game. “A very important match, obviously, where we’re at. Obviously, it’s a long week, it’s the third game, but first half with the ball was very disappointing. In some ways (it was) mystifying to me just how sloppy, careless and poor we were with the ball in that first half against a team that we know presses, boxes-in on you, comes very aggressive on the first passes.”
“We just looked leggy, sleepy and not sharp (or) focused. It’s very frustrating, like I said, and in some cases mystifying how that happens.”
The Crew conceded the opening goal in the 25th minute when Jack Elliott sent a long-range free kick into the bottom left corner. The Union then doubled their lead 28 seconds into the second half when Alejandro Bedoya converted a low close near the center of the goal mouth.
There were chances to get back into the game for the visitors, but none were fully executed.
In the 64th minute, Kai Wagner received his second red card and was sent off, giving the Crew a man advantage the rest of the game. The visitors nearly reduced the two-goal deficit when Gyasi Zardes won a penalty in the 75th minute, but Pedro Santos’ effort was saved by Philadelphia goalkeeper Andre Blake. The keeper than denied Darlington Nagbe from scoring an exquisite upper-90 volley with 10 minutes left.
Leon Flach scored the third Philadelphia goal in the 89th minute, securing the road defeat for the Crew.
“That’s just not a championship performance. It’s plain and simple,” said center back Josh Williams. “We have aspirations of competing with the best teams in this league, and you just can’t play like that. We have everything on the line.
“We still had a chance to keep the rest of the season in our hands, and we come out and we do that. It blows my mind, and I’m involved in it as well. I place myself in that as well. It’s a team thing. I’m not putting blame on any individual, on a couple guys; it’s everybody.”
With the defeat, Columbus is six points out of the MLS Cup Playoffs with six matches remaining. The Crew will now have a two-week break due to FIFA World Cup qualifiers and will resume league play against Inter Miami CF on Oct. 16 at Lower.com Field.
Before that, however, Lower.com Field will host a 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifier on Oct. 13, when the U.S. Men’s National Team faces Costa Rica. Crew attackers Luis Díaz (Costa Rica) and Gyasi Zardes (USMNT) have been called up to represent their respective countries, while former goalkeeper Zack Steffen, and head coach Gregg Berhalter, returns to Columbus.