In what was officially the first game of the preseason for Columbus Crew SC, the Black & Gold could not carry over its winning ways from the team’s first two scrimmages.
After leading twice in the first half, Columbus fell 3-2 to Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo in the Pacific Rim Cup tournament.
Crew SC began the match with Zack Steffen in goal and a back four of Connor Maloney, Alex Crognale, Josh Williams and Milton Valenzuela. In the midfield, Cristian Martinez and Pedro Santos played on the wings with Wil Trapp and Ricardo Clark anchoring the center of the field. Federico Higuain tucked in behind forward Gyasi Zardes.
After an early spell of control by Sapporo, the Black & Gold broke through in the 13th minute.
The opening goal came on a throw in from Valenzuela. The Argentinian found Zardes in the penalty area. The forward did a good job to hold off a defender on his back before turning and firing a low shot on the half volley that beat the goalkeeper at his near post.
Twelve minutes later and Sapporo tied the match. A cross delivered into the danger area of the penalty box deflected to Crognale who got caught with the ball under his feet. HCS forward Jonathan Reis was able to capitalize, finishing past Steffen.
In the 39th minutes, Columbus was the benefactor of a friendly whistle from the referee. Clark went down inside the penalty area after little contact and Crew SC was awarded a penalty kick.
Zardes stepped up and fired a hard, low shot that sent the opposing keeper the wrong way and gave the Black & Gold a 2-1 lead.
With the final touch of the first half, Sapporo leveled the match once again. Columbus fell asleep on a throw in and the Japanese side were able to get space for a cross and a finish by Ryota Hayasaka as the runs went in behind the Crew SC backline.
Head coach Gregg Berhalter deployed a new 11 for the second 45 minutes. Jon Kempin took his place in between the pipes behind Harrison Afful, Jonathan Mensah, Lalas Abubakar and Hector Jimenez. The midfield featured Niko Hansen, Mohammed Abu, Artur and Luis Argudo. Eduardo Sosa took over for Higuain, while Adam Jahn replaced Zardes.
The second half began as badley as the first ended.
A poor clearance attempt by Jonathan sprang Sapporo in on the Black & Gold defense. Abubakar was able to recover on one attacker, but a simple cross to the open Koji Miyoshi led to an easy finish to take the lead for the first time in the match.
Fifty-two minutes in and Crew SC created a good opportunity on the counter. A pass played near midfield found the run of Argudo. The rookie out of Wake Forest did a good job of controlling the ball and cutting it back, but the goalkeeper was quick off his line to smother any chance in the penalty box.
Seven minutes later and Columbus thought the team had equalized. Afful ripped a shot into the roof of the net, but the flag went up for offside.
The Black & Gold created a few more chances, but had nothing to show for them.
With the defeat, Crew SC will now play in the third place match against Iwaki FC who fell to the Vancouver Whitecaps on Thursday night.