With the final seconds ticking away Sunday afternoon inside Red Bull Arena, it felt like a cruel first loss for the Columbus Crew. Not only had the visitors missed two clear-cut chances to earn three points, but the lone goal conceded was deflected off goalkeeper Eloy Room.

Then one counter attack changed everything.

In the 95th minute, Alexandru Matan dribbled up the left flank and played a pass toward Gyasi Zardes, who collected the ball on the midfield stripe. Zardes took a touch and played a ball to the right flank toward Luis Diaz, who charged down the right side. Steven Moreira, who made a 100-yard run, then received the overlap, crossed the ball and watched as Darlington Nagbe poked it past the Red Bulls keeper for the equalizer. It was a blistering counter attack – a last-chance effort – that was rewarded with a solid point on the road.

The late equalizer ensured a solid road point for the Crew, who drew the New York Red Bulls, 1-1, on Sunday, preserving the club’s unbeaten run to start the young season.

“When I was sitting there down, 1-0, I just kept thinking, ‘How unfair and how cruel?’ because I thought our guys rolled up their sleeves and battled the entire game,” Crew head coach Caleb Porter said after the match. “All those moments, those dirty little moments when you have to dig and grind and win second balls, we did that.

“It’s a great performance, especially in that second half, and I’m very proud of our fight and our battle and our defending and our mentality – very proud of those things. Those are things you need along the way.”

After a scoreless first half, the Crew had two clear-cut chances in the second half to produce the game winner, but the team was unable to score. First was a point-blank chance for Gyasi Zardes, then Derrick Etienne Jr., but both produced shots that went wide of goal.

The Red Bulls capitalized on this in the 86th minute when they scored off a set piece after the visitors were unable to clear the ball. That late goal then set up the Crew to score five minutes into stoppage time.

Columbus now sits second in the Eastern Conference with eight points from the first four games. New York is fourth with seven points.

“We have to be a little more cutthroat and punish teams, especially on the road because you’re not going to get as many chances,” Porter said. “These are tight games and we have to be more ruthless.”

The Crew will be off next week for the international break and resume the regular season on April 2 against Nashville SC inside Lower.com Field.

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