The Columbus Crew hoped to take advantage of the Colorado Rapids, the team with the worst record in the league, but were shocked late and fell to a third straight defeat. The offense showed up, with goals by Pedro Santos and Gyasi Zardes, but the defense gave up three, including two set piece goals, falling 3-2 for a third straight defeat.
The initial two minutes were choppy with neither team really looking fluid or able to implant their game plan. Columbus occasionally pushed forward while the Rapids struggled to string together an attack.
Despite the fits and starts, the Rapids broke through first off a set piece. Off the Rapids third corner of the bight, Jack Price sent in a ball that cleared the defense and found Tommy Smith. The center back, matched up on Pedro Santos, finished easily to send Colorado to the lead in the 23rd minute.
Columbus didn’t wait long to level the score. In the 28th minute, Wil Trapp sent in a deep vertical ball into the penalty box and found Hector Jimenez. The deputized left back sent in a cross that Higuain moved to meet, but he was clipped by Rapids defender Sam Vines. Santos got the ball and took a touch inside to find a lane and curled a left footed shot to even the score.
The Crew nearly pulled a head, again through Jimenez. He crossed a ball deep from the attacking zone back into the six yard box. Gyasi Zardes’ header was pushed wide. It was a golden chance that needed a finish.
The Rapids took back the lead deep in first half stoppage time. After a turnover in midfield off a misfired Higuain square pass. Sam Nicholson took the ball through the Crew’s defense. He found Jonathan Lewis, the newly acquired winger finished the counter to push the home side ahead six minutes into stoppage time.
Columbus had another comeback in them and it was a glimpse of the flowing offense from earlier in the season. The Crew swung the ball around the top of the box and come to Higuain. As the ball moved, Zardes cut diagonally through the box and meet the pass and redirect for the goal in the 54th minute, giving the Crew nearly a half to get a winner.
That winner nearly came off a well worked set piece attempt in the 63rd minute. Santos sent in a corner that Josh Williams sent across goal. Gaston Sauro powered a header at goal, but Kei Kamara cleared it out of the goalmouth.
The home side wouldn’t miss their chance and they came through in the second half and it was another set piece failing that Colorado capitalized on.
Jack Price sent in another dangerous service that forced a Zack Steffen punch. The clearance fell to the top of the penalty box. Nicolas Mezquida slipped past the Santos defensive effort and rip a shot into the corner. 3-2 and another Crew loss.
The wingback (and lack of) depth
Niko Hansen was a surprise starter at right back. He had been training there to give the team some depth. He struggled in his first start as Jonathan Lewis used his speed and talent on the ball to cause problems all night, but the other big concern is the possible concussion to Hector Jimenez. Jimenez hit his head early in the first half, but was eventually subbed off late in the half. Jimenez will be given all the time he needs to full recover, but the team was left playing Hansen and Josh Williams at the outside back positions for the majority of the game.
Set piece calamity
The Crew’s set piece defense has been struggling recently and it the situation got worse against the Rapids. The home team was able to create several chances and score twice. Tommy Smith scored once and had another ring off the post. Even when Steffen made his initial clearance, the Crew defense failed to clean up the second balls. It doomed them to a third straight loss.
One last game before the Gold Cup break and it’s at home against New York City FC. Columbus will be looking to break yet another multi-game losing streak as they face off on Saturday night at 7:30 PM.