Following an offensive explosion in the win against Montreal last week, Crew SC looked to continue the momentum against expansion side Atlanta United. A season high crowd of 20,391 were hoping for some fireworks on the field, but the visitors would provide it.
Coming into this match, the Five Stripes were just 2-5-3 on the road and Columbus boasted a 6-2-1 record at MAPFRE suggesting an edge for the home side, but Atlanta would come out with a press that disrupted Crew SC’s rhythm. With the offense sputtering early, Columbus were lucky not to be down early. It was the upright that saved an early deficit in the 11th minute as Miguel Almirón stripped Harrison Afful to get in on Zack Steffen’s goal.
Atlanta finally broke through in the 27th minute when Hector Villalba capitalized on a miscue from Jonathan Menseh giving the United a 1-0 advantage. Alec Kann punted forward and the Crew SC Designated Player misjudged the header and the Argentine attacker was free on Steffen’s goal and calmly finished.
Columbus would have a penalty shout just moments later as Justin Meram went down in the box. Both crowd and player were shouting appeals for a penalty, but referee Hilario Grajeda gave the Crew SC winger a yellow card for dissent instead and the Black & Gold went into the locker room trailing 1-0.
Columbus appeared to get some intensity out of the break, but the possession wouldn’t result in a goal. The best chance would be a tight angled header from Federico Higuain from a couple yards away that rang the post.
The visitors would regain control in the 64th minute when Hector Villalba got his brace and gave the visitors a 2-0 advantage. Greg Garza sent in a cross from the left. Josef Martínez’s shot was blocked. Villalba finished. The visitors would would carry the two goal lead until the end of the match. Crew SC were shutout at home for the first time this season.
The Columbus backline held steady throughout many portions of this match. Defensive miscues from Jonathan Menseh proved costly as he was directly involved on both of the Atlanta United goals.
Menseh would later be subbed off for Nicolai Naess in the 77th minute.
Midfielder Ethan Finlay stated after the game that Crew SC would be content with seven points in this three game sequence prior to the Gold Cup. Now the team has to refocus heading into Minnesota on Tuesday as they prep for an encounter with yet another expansion team.
Columbus Crew SC will take a trip north to visit the Loons in Minnesota on Independence Day. Kickoff is at 7pm on Tuesday. This will be the first encounter between the two franchises and the only encounter in 2017. Columbus is presented with an excellent opportunity to rebound, but can they capitalize?