When the final whistle sounded and D.C. United fans applauded in the stands, the Crew players on the field below had looks of frustration and annoyance. These were the reactions from two sides who both arrived at a same outcome – a 2-2 draw on Wednesday night at Audi Field.
Perhaps it was how the result arrived that led to the different post-match emotions; Perhaps it was a reminder for the Crew that these are the emotions that come with having higher standards.
The Columbus Crew is unbeaten in its last seven matches and unbeaten in its last five road contests. Had the team earned three points against D.C. United, the Black & Gold would’ve won three-straight road games for the first time since 2015.
And had they not conceded a stoppage-time goal from a scramble in the box, they’d be back in a playoff position and celebrating the clinical second-half performance by their attacking players.
But instead, they did concede, and they did split the points, which left head coach Caleb Porter sifting through the post-match comments trying find the right takeaway and message to supporters.
“It's a game where I don't quite know how to feel, to be honest with you,” Porter said. “There were a lot of good things … But if I'm honest, I just think it was kind of a sloppy game, and I do think we got good performances across the board. Yes, when the dust settles, it's a draw. Yes, you know, we're seven unbeaten and on the road five unbeaten, whatever it is. But we didn't, for me, play well enough.”
“We could have gotten out of there with the three points. But there's a lot to improve on from this game. I was disappointed with the consistency from building off last game’s second half. I want to see a group that's consistent.”
Scoreless at halftime, Lucas Zelarayán and Cucho Hernandez entered the match in the second half and offered an immediate scoring threat. It was Cucho in the 62nd minute who fired Columbus in front when he produced a lovely, dipping effort toward the back post and past D.C. United goalkeeper Rafael Romo.
The goal was Cucho’s second in as many games, and he became only the second Crew player in club history to score in his first two matches since he signed with the club. (The other player was Gyasi Zardes in 2018.)
D.C. United should’ve equalized in the 73rd minute, though, when the match official overturned a call using VAR and awarded the home side a penalty. Taxiarchis Fountas proceeded to smash his spot kick off target.
D.C. would equalize, however, in the 80th minute, when it was Fountas who guided the ball past Crew keeper Eloy Room.
But fortunes changed a minute later when Zelarayán whipped a right-footed cross into the box and toward a diving Cucho, who scored his second of the match.
It was a moment of beauty that deserved to be the game winner, but the headed goal was overshadowed in the 92nd minute when former Crew forward Ola Kamara scored when the visitors struggled to clear the ball from their goal mouth.
“We have to learn from it, put it behind us,” Porter said of the outcome. “It's very important that we don't just chalk it up to, ‘it's a point on the road,’ because we have to do better. And we have to also put it behind us quickly because we've got three days and then we’ve got a very important derby game on Sunday at home.”
Up next is the first Hell is Real derby match of 2022, as the Crew host southern rivals FC Cincinnati on Sunday night at Lower.com Field. The Crew won the last time the clubs met in the venue, and a Black & Gold victory would move Columbus above Cincinnati in the Eastern Conference standings.
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