Exhale. The match is over and Columbus Crew SC came away with a point. On the road. Across the country. Without their top playmaker, a starting center back, right back, left back.
Against the hot Vancouver Whitecaps, who won four games in a row and sit atop the Major League Soccer standings, head coach Gregg Berhalter was forced to make changes. Federico Higuain was suspended. Waylon Francis and Emanuel Pogatetz were held out with linger injuries. Hernan Grana was likely rested for Saturday's game with the New England Revolution.
Still, Crew SC twice held a lead over the Whitecaps. The opening goal came on a beautiful play between Ben Speas, who started for Higuain, who sprang the play, and Ethan Finlay and Kei Kamara. When Finlay couldn't control the final pass from Kamara, the big striker rushed in and put the ball in the back of the net.
Six minutes later, Vancouver equalized through Octavio Rivero, a man who can't stop scoring.
Darren Mattocks took a quick throw in, going directly into Rivero in the box. The crafty Rivero, who was unmarked, turned defender Michael Parkhurst and beat goalkeeper Steve Clark.
The Whitecaps began to turn up the pressure to end the first half and kept it up to begin the second half. The Black and Gold, and Justin Meram in particular, were opportunistic, taking advantage of a bad goal kick from David Ousted.
Five minutes into the second half, Meram intercepted the short pass, taking it into the 18-yard box before finding Kamara at the top of the six-yard box. The striker didn't hit it hard, but wrong-footed Ousted for a 2-1 lead against the run of play.
As expected, Vancouver kept on coming. The Whitecaps used their speed to get chances, firing from long range and getting into the box.
A long ball over the top that was misjudged by right back Hector Jimenez was cut inside by Kekutah Manneh. Darren Mattocks was there to tuck the ball in and pull the score level.
Given the circumstances, Berhalter and his side looked content to take a point, but the club had a chance to steal the game late.
Another fast break from Kamara and Finlay resulted in the winger in on goal, one v. one with Ousted. Finlay couldn't get the right touch to get the ball by Ousted, who made the big save to make up for his earlier error.
It wasn't the best performance from Crew SC, who allowed 22 shots and only managed 37.6 percent of the possession, but a point on the road in these cirumstances, they'll take it.