For a few brief moments Wednesday night, there was hope – hope that for a third time in a month, the Columbus Crew would rally from a multi-goal deficit to earn a draw. 

After Kevin Molino scored his first Crew goal six minutes earlier, his next effort on target ricocheted off the woodwork toward Lucas Zelarayán, who cut the deficit to 3-2 in the 71st minute. The noise levels, already high all match, rose a little higher, and the faces of Black & Gold players showed an attack still hungry for more goals.

But that was too good to be true.

Three minutes later, on D.C. United’s first counter attack since it conceded twice, Yordy Reyna found space outside the box and guided the ball past Eloy Room for a second time.

The noise levels dropped, the hope faded and the worries that hung in the air throughout Wednesday night’s match at Lower.com Field returned.

The Columbus Crew had been the best defensive team in the league this season and were unbeaten in 18 of their last 22 home games. Yet, after losing 4-1 at New York City FC last Saturday, they lost 4-2 to D.C. United on Wednesday night. The club that only allowed 12 goals through its first 15 matches has allowed eight in the last two.

“I think it’s pretty obvious that the story of the game is we gifted them four goals. It’s that simple,” head coach Caleb Porter told the media after the match. “All four of the goals were transitions, nothing they (D.C. United) did was surprising on the day. 

“Two of the four, we literally got caught on the ball and gave them goals. You’re not going to see a poorer goal than those two in our sport. You’re not going to see one. You know, it happens. It’s nothing as a knock on the player – we’ve got good players. The players that gave those goals away are good players. I have confidence and faith in them, but it’s really hard to win a game when you give away goals like that. So, that’s the story of the game.”

WATCH | Caleb Porter following setback against D.C. United

Through the first 14 games this season, Porter deployed 10 different backlines. That the club was still earning results with constant tinkering was seen as a testament to the roster’s quality. It still is, Porter said after the loss, and now the focus is building back the confidence that ran through the team a week ago.

“What we need to sort out is the back four which is strange because prior to these two games, we were number one in the league, and we’ve now given up eight goals,” Porter said. “So, we need to build their confidence up, we need to get some continuity in the four and I think that’s the area that we have to sort out mainly.”

As goal scorer Kevin Molino pointed out in his post-match interview on the broadcast, the opportunity to rectify the mistakes arrives “sooner than later.”

The Crew host Atlanta United FC on Saturday night at Lower.com Field in a matchup between clubs that faced one other two weeks ago. On July 24, the Black & Gold beat Atlanta, 1-0, on the road, thanks to a Jonathan Mensah goal. Now, they’ll face the same squad that’s winless in its last 12 games.

Columbus, a team that usually capitalizes on opposing mistakes, is being capitalized on. The question now is how quickly that fortune can change and the defensive prowess will return.

“At the end of the day, we were getting results and playing well so, for me, there’s no excuse not to continue playing well and getting results,” Porter said.

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