It was a miserable day in Bradenton, Fl. that any Columbus Crew SC fan back home would have taken over the cold temperatures and snow in central Ohio.
The weather fit the mood of Crew SC fans as they watched their team struggled and lose in penalty kicks against their second MLS side of the preseason. The Black and Gold came into the contest having won three games over inferior opponents, but had a hard time breaking down the Philadelphia Union.
The match began brightly and it appeared Columbus took the lead just three minutes into the game. Winger Ethan Finlay found Federico Higuain in the box and his shot hit the post but was cleaned up and finished by forward Kei Kamara. The celebrations were short as the linesman raised his flag to signal Kamara was offside on the play.
Just a minute later, Kamara put home a cross from right back Hector Jimenez, but the flag was again raised for offside, this time on Jimenez.
After controlling much of the play over the first seven minutes, Columbus began to struggle to get the ball out of the back. The Union allowed Crew SC to possess along the back line, but pressured high every time they attempted to move the ball past the defensive third.
This pressure forced the Black and Gold into countless turnovers and most of the first half was played in Philadelphia's attacking half of the field.
In the 27th minute, the Union's pressure finally paid off and they opened the scoring. Defender Sheanon Williams got free on the outside and delivered a cross into Columbus' 18-yard box. Striker Fernando Aristeguieta, who is on loan with Philadelphia from FC Nantes, redirected his header back across the goal and into the top corner for the 1-0 lead.
Crew SC made a full lineup change at the break, giving the second unit a chance to pull the game level.
As the rain continued and the fog became more dense, Columbus searched for an equalizer. In the 60th minute, winger Justin Meram played a ball wide, in behind the Union defense for left back Chris Klute. The defender took a touch before serving a dangerous cross to the head of forward Aaron Schoenfeld, but the big man's effort went wide of the goal.
Nine minutes later, the Black and Gold capitalized on a mistake from Philadelphia to tie the game at one a piece. After a giveaway near midfield, Meram found himself in on goal. The winger stayed composed and chipped the goalkeeper from outside the box.
Just two minutes later, it appeared Crew SC were in trouble. After getting beaten, Klute clumsily tackled a Union player inside the 18-yard box and Philadelphia was awarded a penalty kick. Veteran striker Connor Casey stepped up to the spot, but his effort was saved by Columbus goalkeeper Matt Lampson.
After 90 minutes,the two teams could not be separated and due to their same tournament record and equal goal differential, the match went straight to a penalty kick shootout.
After both sides made their first two attempts, the Crew SC goal scorer, Meram's shot was saved. The Union converted all five of their penalties to win the game and move on to the final.
Although they lost, the Black and Gold will still get a final preseason game on Saturday. They will take on the second place team in Group A. That match will kickoff at 5:00 pm ET. Check back to find out how who Columbus will play and how to watch the match.
First Half Lineup: Steve Clark; Hector Jimenez, Michael Parkhurst, Emanuel Pogatetz, Waylon Francis; Ethan Finlay, Tony Tchani, Wil Trapp, Kristinn Steindorsson; Federico Higuain; Kei Kamara
Second Half Lineup: Matt Lampson; Chad Barson, Sergio Campbell, Tyson Wahl, Chris Klute; Ben Swanson (73' Sagi Lev-Ari), Mohammed Saeid, Kevan George, Justin Meram; Ben Speas; Aaron Schoenfeld