One of the worst losing streaks in Columbus Crew SC history finally came to an end Wednesday night when the Black & Gold took down the LA Galaxy 3-1 at MAPFRE Stadium. After five consecutive losses and a hugely controversial defeat last Saturday, the win was long overdue.
Fans are now left wondering what changed that the Crew were able to pull out such a dominating victory over a powerhouse team like the Galaxy, who sit in second place overall in Major League Soccer. Though the Crew have made many trades and roster changes this week, none were implemented into the starting lineup Wednesday.
This was simply the game the team had been looking for since the loss to the Montreal Impact that began the slump on April 13. Head coach Caleb Porter and the team consistently talked about the breakthrough that was coming, when the floodgates would open and goals would finally come.
On Saturday, the Crew’s 3-1 loss to D.C. began with a 1-0 lead that was revoked after going to Video Assistant Review for a supposed foul committed by Wil Trapp at midfield. The team spent the rest of the game trying to dig themselves out of a hole that was much too deep. The Professional Referee Organization released a statement Wednesday affirming what fans and players alike already knew: the goal should have stood.
The anger following Saturday’s defeat was justified. Porter and his team felt they were robbed, the last thing they needed amidst an already draining losing streak. Porter didn’t hold back against the league, calling the whole situation “unprecedented” and saying, “We deserve more respect as a club. My players deserve more respect.”
Club captain and midfielder Wil Trapp was not pleased with how Saturday’s match went either and echoed his head coach’s statements.
“We have to embrace that underdog mentality,” he said, “because ultimately we can’t sit here and play victims and that was the message at halftime and it’s something that we have to continue to rally behind and work on.”
Training between the two games was focused on one thing: ending the losing streak. It was clear that the Black & Gold were not going to let that loss — or any of the five — define their season. And Wednesday they did just what they said they were going to do. They got revenge.
“I really thought in some ways the way the D.C. game went down could maybe galvanize our group, give us a bit of an edge, and I think we came here to fight for the club and the city and respect,” Porter said after the win.
The team knew they had a tall task in managing an LA Galaxy team that was high in the Western Conference standings. Coming into MAPFRE Stadium Wednesday, the Galaxy had only been shutout once with only two losses on the season. Not only that, but they had Zlatan Ibrahimovic to defend.
Center backs Jonathan Mensah and Gaston Sauro held their own against the Swedish star, while fullbacks Hector Jimenez and Waylon Francis were also instrumental in keeping Ibrahimovic off the board. The defensive effort held him to three shots, with only one on target. Goalkeeper Zack Steffen made a great save to take care of the header Ibrahimovic connected with in the 50th minute, keeping LA off the board.
Gyasi Zardes was thankful to have made the breakthrough and get the result the team had been working towards for so long. The striker had gone scoreless in six matches prior to Wednesday’s win.
“It’s always nice to score goals, and through those difficult moments your true character comes out,” said Zardes. “My teammates had a lot of faith in me. I respect my teammates for having faith in me through the good times and the bad.”
Midfielder Federico Higuain, who broke the Crew record for assists on Wednesday, is already focused on the team’s next match, though he acknowledged the importance of what his team just pulled off.
“It’s nice to see we’re still believing in each other, because it’s very easy to trust in your teammates when things are going your way. But when things are not going your way it’s beautiful to keep trusting in your teammates,” Higuain said.
Porter was also incredibly proud of his team.
“There’s one of two things that happen in this situation. You either get broken and the wheels fall off, or you become unbreakable, and our group chose the latter,” said the coach. “You get your heart broken in this sport, and we’ve had our heart broken quite a bit already this year. But I told (the team) the reason we keep coming back is because we’ll fall in love again.”
The team now looks to keep this intensity as they turn their attention to Los Angeles Football Club, MLS’s top team, on Saturday. This will be the Crew’s third game in eight games, so they will look to carry the momentum from Wednesday’s win into Saturday’s match.