It was a game of two halves for Columbus Crew SC, who earned their first win of 2015, 1-0, in their second preseason game. One half of dominating play with chance after chance, the other half, a goal.
After falling to FC Dallas 3-1 on Friday night, the Black and Gold took on the tournament's host and new affiliate club, the Austin Aztex, who fell 2-0 to D.C. United in the first game of the ATX Pro Challenge.
The first half was a display of attacking soccer that focused mainly on the outside backs providing the width. Left back Waylon Francis and new signing Hernan Grana, who operated from the right side of the pitch, were consistently getting down the flanks and delivering dangerous crosses into the Aztex's penalty box.
Second-year player Adam Bedell, who started up top for Columbus, had a number of chances to open the scoring for his side, but failed to convert. The best of these came late in the first half when he headed the ball back across goal. The effort appeared destined for the back of the net, but a diving save by Austin's goalkeeper denied the big man.
Ethan Finlay had the chance of the first half when he got into the box and dribbled by three Aztex defenders. The winger fired a shot that clanged off the crossbar and was cleared as the score remained 0-0.
After the break, Head Coach Gregg Berhalter made 10 changes to his side. The lack of chemistry and cohesion was evident, with distinctly less control for the Black and Gold in the final 45 minutes.
Forward Kei Kamara did have one headed effort which forced a save, but the match appeared destined for a penalty kick shootout.
In the 81st minute, right back Chad Barson played savior. The Akron product made a run to the back post and winger Justin Meram turned and delivered a curling ball on point. Barson was able to redirect the ball by the goalkeeper and into the far side netting for the 1-0 lead.
Crew SC will now head back to Florida for the third and final portion of their preseason at IMG Academy. There, the team will play four matches, including MLS side, the Philadelphia Union on Feb. 25, before the start of the season Mar. 7.
First Half Lineup: Matt Lampson; Hernan Grana, Michael Parkhurst, Kalen Ryden, Waylon Francis; Ethan Finlay, Tony Tchani, Wil Trapp, Kristinn Steindorsson; Federico Higuain; Adam Bedell
Second Half Lineup: Steve Clark; Chad Barson, Michael Parkhurst (62' Sergio Campbell), Chris Klute; Hector Jimenez, Mohammed Saeid, Ben Swanson, Justin Meram; Ben Speas; Kei Kamara