On Saturday night, it was the Columbus Crew who rallied late and produced a dramatic last-minute win. On Wednesday night, the Crew found themselves in a similar scenario, but this time on the wrong end of a draw. 

Leading entering stoppage time, the Black & Gold conceded the equalizer in the 94th minute, sealing a 2-2 tie with Charlotte FC at Bank of America Stadium.  

While it was a frustrating result, it wasn’t a back breaker for the Crew’s postseason hopes, which head coach Caleb Porter reiterated after the match.

“Obviously, result-wise, it’s not what we wanted,” Porter said. “It’s not a win, it’s a draw, but it gives us a chance, depending on other results, if we win the last game, to get into the playoffs. 

“Even if we won this game, we were probably in the same situation where we had to win the last game or possibly get a draw.” 

Porter’s right. Thanks to Inter Miami romping Orlando City SC, 4-1, on Wednesday night, the Crew’s path to the playoffs is straightforward: a win or draw seals a second postseason berth in three seasons.  

Entering MLS Decision Day on Sunday, here’s how the Eastern Conference shakes out:  

4. New York Red Bulls 50 points

5. Inter Miami CF 48 points 

6. FC Cincinnati 46 points 

7. Columbus Crew 46 points 

8. Orlando City SC 45 points

Because the Crew plays at Orlando on Sunday afternoon with a one-point advantage, a win or draw cements the team’s place in the postseason. A loss means Orlando leap frogs Columbus.  

But those are scenarios that can be analyzed in the coming days. For the Crew on Wednesday night, the match was another example of the club playing well on the road, only to see the lead slip.  

Lucas Zelarayán’s remarkable shot from the midfield stripe opened the scoring in the 36th minute, when he caught Charlotte goalkeeper Kristijan Kahlina off his line. The goal was Zelarayán’s 10th of the season.

Paired with his 11 assists, the Armenian international became the third player in club history to register double digit goals and assists in a single season. Jeff Cunningham (2001) and Ethan Findlay (2017) are the only other players to accomplish the feat.  

The goal was also Zelarayán’s eighth all-time goal from a free kick, which ties him with Robert Warzycha for most set piece goals in club history.  

In the second half, Columbus doubled the lead in the 54th minute when the wingers connected, and Luis Díaz slotted a Derrick Etienne Jr. cross past Kahlina.

The home side halved its deficit soon after, though, when Daniel Ríos headed home a Yordy Reyna cross. Then came Andre Shinyashiki’s late header in stoppage time to seal the draw.  

“We’ve gotta keep our heads up,” Porter said. “Guys need to remember the good play that we had and learn from a couple situations, obviously, where we didn’t attack the ball in the box.” 

The Crew concludes the regular season on Sunday afternoon at Orlando City – the team that needs to win to knock Columbus out of the MLS Cup Playoffs.  

After the Black & Gold beat the Red Bulls on Saturday, Porter said the best teams are the ones that stay poised under pressure. Sunday in Florida is as pressurized as a regular season match can be.

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