Another rough performance by the entire Columbus Crew team on Saturday afternoon lead to their second consecutive loss. The winless Philadelphia Union came away with a 1-0 victory after a penalty kick goal in the 38th minute ended what was a sloppy, and somewhat dirty, game.
With the loss, the Crew's record drops to 2-3-0 (six points). The Union finally found a number for the wins column, improving to 1-3-1 (four points). Both teams remain in the lower half of the MLS standings.
Columbus' lineup varied in two spots from their previous starting XI. Ethan Finlay was one of three rookies starting against the Union, including one of two Crew players earning their first ever MLS start. He won over the left-midfield position during the week which had belonged to Bernardo Anor. Up top, rookie Aaron Schoenfeld also started his first MLS match, replacing Emilio Renteria who hadn't scored in four straight starts.
The Crew had a good chance to score the first goal in the 22nd minute. Kirk Urso's free kick was headed down in the box by the Union defense. Schoenfeld got to the loose ball first, but he didn't connect as well as he would have wanted with his left foot. His close range effort was blocked. Urso almost scored directly after this sequence, as Philly gave the ball away after their attempted clearance. Urso fired a shot from outside the box that looked to be on target, but it deflected out of bounds for a corner kick.
A few minutes before the half, Philadelphia were able to pull ahead of their opponents for the first time since their opening game of the MLS season over a month ago. Freddy Adu crossed/shot the ball from the top-right corner of the box. Crew defender Eric Gehrig turned his body as he tried to clear the ball, but it instead struck his upper arm. Referee Michael Kennedy called a handball and awarded a penalty to the Union.
Gabriel Gomez stepped up to take the shot. His fast approach made Crew goalie Andy Gruenebaum dive to his right. However, Gomez just barely chipped the ball in the air. Gruenebaum had to watch the ball float right down the middle of the goal as he laid on the ground helplessly.
Columbus' best chance to equalize came in the 54th minute. Sebastian Miranda sent in a long cross from the right flank. Eddie Gaven, positioned near the top of the box, headed the ball down and in the direction of forward Olman Vargas. Vargas ran toward the ball, but his right-footed half-volley of a shot was blocked as Union goalie Zac MacMath rushed out and closed down the shooting angle.
Columbus weren't able to break through Philadelphia's defense for the entire game, resulting in a 1-0 defeat. In fact, they barely looked like scoring or creating any quality chances throughout the entire duration of the game.
The day started off on a sour note before most people were even awake. The Nor On Tour bus trip that was scheduled to travel to Philly for the game and stay overnight had their plans derailed by a large bird that hit the bus's windshield, resulting in a huge crack. This bird must have been, yes, massive, as it forced them to return to Columbus for a replacement bus. However, by the time it would have arrived, they would have barely made it to PPL Park for the first half. A couple few brave souls still took the long journey by themselves, and I applaud them.
Whether it was the curse of the bird or just another shoddy performance, today wasn't a good day for us Crew folk.