Surviving an early scare in the opening seconds of the match, only to have a late penalty shout in the final minutes, the Columbus Crew and Austin FC played to an entertaining scoreless draw on Sunday night at Q2 Stadium in Austin.
The prime-time national broadcast often resembled a short game of FIFA rather than an actual match in warm southern Texas. Playing to a full-capacity crowd, both sides offered wave after wave of attacks that left the crowd gasping, defenders outnumbered and Crew fans both on the edge of their seats and watching between their fingers.
But in the end, it was a solid road result to earn a point in a raucous atmosphere and keep the MLS newcomers in search of a first home goal.
“Kind of mix feelings a little bit,” head coach Caleb Porter said after the tie. “Normally, you’ll always take a draw on the road. For us, I think we’re disappointed we didn’t get the three … We wanted to win the game for our supporters. We knew it was a meaningful game. It just wasn’t quite enough.”
The Crew’s best chances to find the game-winner came in the second half.
The first arrived in the 74th minute, as Lucas Zelarayán played a free kick toward Gyasi Zardes at the near post. Initially unable to control the ball, Zardes cocked his left leg but hesitated to pull the trigger, and his shot was saved off the goal line.
The second chance came in stoppage time, when Darlington Nagbe weaved through the Austin backline and ventured into the box. Alexander Ring shouldered Nagbe to the ground, but a penalty wasn’t given after the play was not deemed a clear and obvious foul.
"In the end we’ll take the draw and I think in the first 10 games, we knew six of them were on the road, and I think slowly but surely we’ve actually bagged quite a few points in that stretch because we knew it was going to be a difficult stretch early on managing [Concacaf] Champions League and playing games on the road," Porter said.
"So, we’re pleased to have right around 1.5 points per game after 10 games, and we know going into this second third playing a lot more home games, we’re in our new stadium, so we’ll take the point, but I think we are disappointed we didn’t get three."
The Crew's attention now turns to the first match at Lower.com Field on Saturday night against the New England Revolution.
While there’s certainly a buzz in the buildup to the Black & Gold playing their first match at their new home – their second soccer-specific stadium – they’ll face a difficult opponent in the midst of an emotional roller coaster of a three-week span.
By Saturday night, the Crew will have played four games in two weeks. Of those, one closed down Historic Crew Stadium, another was in an opponent's city in which club had nearly relocated to, and the last is in a brand-new stadium – when Crew fans will desperately want a fine start to their new home. (And don’t forget about the Hell is Real Derby the following Friday.)
Through 10 games, the Crew have 15 points and sit fifth in the Eastern Conference standings. First place New England Revolution, which has 23 points, is the curtain-raising opponent on Saturday night.