Columbus Crew SC battled a strong Sporting Kansas City side to a 0-0 draw despite playing down a man for just over half the game after a Federico Higuain red card just before halftime. The team was a Gyasi Zardes missed penalty kick away from grabbing all three points.
Sporting did have a couple chances that created problems for Crew SC’s defense. Johnny Russell sent in a close-range cross that forced goalkeeper Zack Steffen to parry. Daniel Salloi jumped on the chance and fired a shot that Milton Valenzuela blocked in the 22nd minute. Next, Roger Espinoza took a bending shot that clipped the stanchion holding the net in the 30th minute. The roar from the crowd proved to be premature.
The big Crew SC chance came just before halftime when Higuain sent in a pass to Zardes into the box in the 41st minute. He took a touch wide but was hauled down by Tim Melia to give Columbus a penalty kick and an outstanding chance to take the lead in the 43rd minute. Zardes stepped up for the shot, but sent his effort towards Melia’s left post where the keeper extended and parried the ball out for a corner and ending the chance.
The solid opening half ended on a sour note when Higuain took a strong touch and slid into Roger Espinoza with a late challenge. Robert Sibiga went back to review the play at the the prompting of the video review official and gave the Argentine a red card for the rash tackle.
Kansas City nearly grabbed the opener in the 50th minute off and excellent Ilie Sanchez pass to Khiry Shelton. His first chance was denied by Steffen, but spilled. Shelton then sent his next shot at the wide open net off the post.
Columbus was nearly reduced to nine men in the 57th minute when Cristian Martinez swung out at Seth Sinovic off the ball, but the officials didn’t see the infraction and it wasn’t reviewed.
Sporting got another chance in the 62nd minute as Daniel Salloi picked up a loose ball just outside the Crew SC penalty box. He traded passes with Shelton and had a free look at the Columbus goal, but his shot was stopped by Steffen, who continued to come up with big saves.
Columbus was able to scrape up a chance off a corner. Second half substitute Luis Argudo sent in a bending ball in the 70th minute that Zardes headed towards goal. Melia was up to the task and grabbed the ball on the line.
Then the Crew SC defense took hold. The team was able to lap up the KC pressure as they tried to break through for the win. The home side fired four shots in the final 20 minutes. Three were blocked and the other went high and wide. Even a man down, Crew SC held fast and grabbed another road point.
It was a record-breaking day for Columbus, as they set the team record for longest shutout streak in the 10th minute at 419 minutes. Not content, the defense added another 80 to finish the shutout. The record now stands at 499 and counting. Crew SC last allowed a goal against San Jose on April 28th in the 45th minute.
A finish line for Sauro’s long road
Gaston Sauro last played on October 1st of 2016 after a knee injury that threatened his career and cancelled his 2017 season. The long, hard work to get back on the field paid off on Sunday as he replaced Martinez in the 76th minute. The defender showed little rust as he made a couple clearances, had a block, and made an interception in his limited time.
Crew SC comes home to play Toronto FC at MAPFRE Stadium on June 2nd at 7:30 p.m. ET. They’ll battle the struggling defending champions without Higuain. There’s a chance that Wil Trapp, Steffen and Martinez may be missing due to a national team call-ups.