What went wrong for Columbus Crew SC tonight? See Gregg Berhalter’s explanation for the 2-0 loss.Posted by Massive Report on Wednesday, June 13, 2018
All good things must end, and Columbus Crew SC’s unbeaten streak did just that on Wednesday night. Atlanta United, the top team in Major League Soccer, walked into MAPFRE Stadium confident and walked out with a 2-0 win.
Crew SC ceded possession for the first 15 minutes the game to the visitors. Atlanta was comfortable playing the ball around the perimeter of the Columbus defense with the possession stats tilted heavily toward United that pinned the Black & Gold back. Despite having so much of the ball, Atlanta was unable to turn the early possession into any real chances.
Columbus finally started settling into the game and began to see more of the ball. Lalas Abubakar sent a header over in the 17th minute as Crew SC lodged the first shot in the game.
The Black & Gold had the first good chance of the match in the 28th minute. Federico Higuain sent in a free kick from deep as Jonathan Mensah separated from his defender. His header just missed the far post and a lead after weathering the early United pressure.
It took just two minutes for Atlanta to turn around and press the advantage on their own set piece. After a quick attack that forced Jonathan to play the ball out for a corner, Ezequiel Barco sent in a found that found league-leading goal scorer Josef Martinez for the headed finish.
Zardes nearly brought the game level in the 51st minute as he fired in a left-footed shot that forced an excellent Brad Guzan save. Higuain dribbled into a seam in the mid-third and uncorked a long ball to free Zardes behind the Atlanta backline and set up the chance initially.
Atlanta continued pulling back, content to let Crew SC have the ball, but trying to limit the chances. Columbus still had a couple of opportunities to tie the game. Substitute Luis Argudo tested Guzan again in the 71st minute, but the United goalkeeper would not be beat. The Black & Gold had another chance in the 76th minute as Afful served up a cross-field switch that Milton Valenzuela redirected in front of goal, just missing the foot of Zardes.
With Crew SC looking to equalize, the visitors killed off the game with a counter in the 82nd minute. Miguel Almiron took the ball in transition to the stretched defense. With Abubakar and Jonathan stretched, Hector Villalba arrived late with a wide run that was rewarded by Almiron to go one on one with Zack Steffen. He beat the Columbus keeper to double the edge.
Columbus had 13 shots to Atlanta’s six, but each had three on target. United’s defense limited Crew SC to rushed attempts and they rarely had a clean look at Guzan’s goal. Without possession, the Black & Gold weren’t able to create turnovers and attack the defense in transition. Columbus did get the possession edge in the second half, but lacked the sharpness to really unsettle the well-drilled Atlanta backline.
Three streaks ended tonight. Crew SC’s nine-game unbeaten streak came to an end in emphatic fashion as Atlanta came in with a game plan and executed convincingly. Columbus was 4-0-5 over the streak, which included two 10-man road ties. Zack Steffen also saw his consecutive shutouts streak come to an end. The goalkeeper went 525 minutes without allowing a goal until Josef Martinez found the net. The result also wan the end of the team’s 16-game goal streak at home. The last team to shutout Crew SC? Atlanta United won 2-0 on July 1st 2017.
The loss drops Crew SC to 7-4-6 on the year. The team remains in third place in the Eastern Conference, but have played the most games in the league.
The Black & Gold now has the World Cup mini-break, as the next game is in 10 days on June 23rd in Los Angeles against expansion Los Angeles Football Club. It’s the first of three straight games against the Western Conference as Columbus then hosts Real Salt Lake then head back to California to play LA Galaxy.