Throughout the course of a Major League Soccer season, Columbus Crew SC will have ups and downs. On Saturday against the Philadelphia Union, the Black & Gold were down.
But what made Saturday good for Crew SC fans was it did not cost Columbus, as the Black & Gold walked out of Chester, Pennsylvania with a 0-0 draw, maintaining the team’s 12-match regular season unbeaten run dating back to last year.
Little of consequence happened in the opening 45 minutes with the Union pressing high and Crew SC attempting to play out of the back.
Philadelphia earned a free kick in the 20th minute after Artur took down midfielder Borek Dockal at the top of the penalty area. The ensuring free kick went right to goalkeeper Zack Steffen.
Seven minutes later and it was Columbus’ creative threat sparking the attack. Federico Higuain’s heel flick sprung forward Gyasi Zardes, but the striker — who had three goals in his first two games — could not put his shot on target.
In the 36th minute, the Black & Gold put themselves in a bad spot, giving the ball away coming out of the back. Artur though made a crucial tackle inside the penalty box to deny Philadelphia the 1-0 advantage.
The second half was more in Columbus’ favor as the visiting side pushed out of the back.
Zardes fired a shot right at Union goalkeeper Andre Blake in the opening minutes of the half and shanked a perfect cross from left back Milton Valenzuela seven minutes later.
Steffen came up big for Crew SC on a Union corner, diving to keep the game scoreless.
Despite some half chances for both teams, neither could convert and find an opening goal and grab a win.
With the point, the Black & Gold move to 2-0-1 in 2018 and, as of this writing, sit atop the MLS standings.
Acquiring Gyasi Zardes for Ola Kamara in the offseason came with some risk. In the first two games, Zardes played very well, scoring three goals. But on Saturday, he was less than stellar.
Although the strikers runs were good and he helped create chances, his touch was off and he missed five very clear goal-scoring chances.
If you’re a Crew SC fan, you’re still happy with what Zardes is giving you, but one finish against the Union would have resulted in another three points instead of one.
Martinez hype train
Cristian Martinez is a player that there is a lot of opinion about either way. After the first game of the year, it was hard to argue against the Panamanian as a clear-cut starter. But after two subpar performances, Black & Gold fans are asking what are the other options at winger.
The answer came off the bench in the second half in the now healthy Niko Hansen. Although he didn’t do much in this contest, Hansen, who was hurt early in preseason, is a serious contender to take minutes from Martinez if the 21 year olds performances don’t improve.
Crew SC return home next week to take on long-time Eastern Conference rivals D.C. United. That game kicks off at 6 p.m. ET.