When the final whistle blew, Caleb Porter had no problem quickly turning toward the FC Cincinnati fans behind him and shushing them. Seconds later, he did the same to a disgruntled FC Cincinnati bench.
For the opening 45 minutes Friday night, it felt like the Columbus Crew would give their rivals a first win in their new stadium. Down two goals, the Crew was then down a man entering first-half stoppage time.
But then something happened that Porter had never seen before.
His team, against the odds, snatched a goal just before halftime. And then, in the second half, they scored an equalizer from an unlikely candidate and ground out a 2-2 draw against FCC in the first Hell is Real Derby at TQL Stadium.
It was the type of script that Crew fans hoped would unfold last week at the Lower.com Field arriving a week later. It was a point earned, but it was a monumental achievement that sunk the rival to a new low.
“I’m at a loss for words a little bit,” Porter said to open his post-match press conference. “Unbelievable. Has it ever happened in this league? … I’ve never seen it; I’ve never been a part of a game certainly where a team has been down two goals and down a man and been able to come back and claw out a result.
“I couldn’t be more proud of my guys – just the mettle they showed, the resiliency they showed, the mentality, belief. It takes all of these things to pull out a result like that under the circumstances.”
WATCH | Highlights from the Crew's 2-2 comeback draw at FC Cincinnati
Coming back from two goals down is an achievement, and even more commendable considering the team was down a player for the majority of the match. But to achieve that with 11 players unavailable – against your in-state rival – felt like some inspiring movie transpiring in real-time.
Miguel Berry, who had only played a single regular-season minute this season before stepping onto the pitch against Cincinnati, scored the equalizing goal in the 77th minute with a composed finish that mimicked the man he was playing in place of: Gyasi Zardes.
Meanwhile, Lucas Zelarayan unleashed a curling effort in first-half stoppage time that brought Columbus back within a goal, then willed the visitors to a point by slotting Berry in on goal.
“We build our locker room to be tough, we build our locker room to be resilient, we build our players’ mentality to fight through anything,” Porter said. “Today was maybe one of the more, most difficult situations to be in, and for us to pull out of that is absolutely incredible. It says everything about the players, that locker room, that group of guys and (I) just couldn’t be more proud to be their coach.”
The beauty of the Crew’s comeback wasn’t the feeling that the result could be a turning point; it was that it will be a turning point.
As Porter went around shushing FCC fans, Crew supporters roared in the southeast corner of the stadium, where the Black & Gold supporters were tucked away. “Wise Men Say” filled the air, and traveling fans stayed long after the match to appreciate what they just witnessed.
But while all of this unfolded, there was certainly a curiosity of how the other half felt following the game.
“They have to be devastated over there in that other locker room,” Porter said of FC Cincinnati. “How can you be up 2-0 and not win the game?”
Before walking out of his Zoom press conference, Porter waited for his one last chance to describe the derby and delivered this:
“Wish we would’ve sent our supporters home with three points, but I hope they go back home feeling good about the comeback,” Porter said. “More than that, I’m glad the Cincinnati supporters leave very disappointed.”
One half of the rivalry went home with hope, pride and optimism; the other asked why does this keep happening to us?