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Controversy surrounds Crew’s fifth consecutive loss; 3-1 to D.C. United

This one is going to sting for the Black & Gold.

MLS: Columbus Crew SC at D.C. United Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

What did Columbus Crew SC head coach Caleb Porter make of his team’s controversial 3-1 defeat tonight?

Posted by Massive Report on Saturday, May 4, 2019

Columbus Crew SC came into Saturday night’s contest at D.C. United in desperate need of a win following four straight losses. What the Black & Gold got was what many will remember as armed robbery. A week after D.C. came to Columbus and earned a 1-0 victory thanks to tough defending, United was handed a win by Major League Soccer’s video review process and referee Ted Unkel.

Any action that occurred before the events of the 22nd minute were quickly forgotten. After scoring just one goal during the four-game losing streak, the Black & Gold thought they had their first lead in a game since April 6 when Pedro Santos took a pass from Wil Trapp, dribbled into the D.C. penalty area and fired a shot that beat United goalkeeper Bill Hamid.

While the visiting side celebrated, the D.C. players appealed at midfield. With his hand to his ear, Unkel spoke with Video Assistant Referee Kevin Terry Jr. After several minutes of deliberation, Unkel went down behind Hamid’s goal and took a look at the play. He returned to the field, made the now-famous VAR square and waved the goal off, apparently seeing foul on Trapp near midfield.

The issue is, it was Unkel who ran into D.C. midfielder Luciano Acosta and caused the issue, not Trapp.

A Crew side that came into the game frustrated, believing the team played well enough to at least get results in three of their four previous defeats, was now near boiling point.

Five minutes after the goal was thought to have been scored, Trapp committed a foul in a dangerous area, allowing Wayne Rooney — the scorer of D.C.’s winner from a set piece against the Black & Gold 10 days prior — to line up a free kick. The set piece found wingback Leonardo Jara whose shot was blocked. The rebound fell to Acosta, who easily slotted the ball home.

The play was again reviewed by the Terry, checking to see if Acosta was in an offside position initially and had an impact on the play, but was allowed to stand.

Four minutes into first half stoppage time and, you guessed it, Unkel again was summoned to the video review screen, this time behind Crew goalkeeper Zack Steffen’s goal. After a short review, it was judged that Trapp committed a handball, knocking the ball down with his arm. Rooney stepped up to the spot and gave United the two-goal lead at the half.

A number of Crew players and head coach Caleb Porter went to speak with the referee after the first half whistle. The conversations did not appear friendly. On his halftime interview on FOX Sports Ohio, Porter spoke of “no respect” for his team and that Unkel “gets in the way and finds a reason to call the goal back.”

The Crew did come out of the locker room the brighter side, pushing for a goal as D.C. was content to sit back and protect their lead.

In the 52nd minute, forward Gyasi Zardes had the best chance since Santos’ goal was called back to keep Columbus in the match. The forward got on the end of a cross from Santos but his shot from the back side was saved by Hamid.

Eight minutes later, it was Federico Higuain with the chance to end the Black & Gold’s scoreless streak. A cross from fullback Waylon Francis came all the way across the front of Hamid’s goal but the sliding playmaker could not redirect it into the net.

The home side made it 3-0 just after the hour mark. Center back Jonathan Mensah gave the ball away near midfield on a poor touch. D.C. winger Paul Arriola took full advantage, racing into the penalty area and beating Steffen with a low shot.

Columbus did get something positive in the 75th minute when the ball somehow found the back of the net, ending the team’s 276-minute scoreless streak. The goal came from a Robinho free kick that Hamid mishandled and the ball tucked in at the back post.

Neither side was able to create much of consequence over the final quarter of the game and this contest ended 3-1 in favor of United.

What to make of this

It’s hard to really analyze this game given how it played out. If the Crew’s first half goal would have stood, the contest likely would have been a lot different. Instead, the goal is taken off the board and D.C. quickly scores, changing the game. Then there was the penalty kick...

Once again, this Crew is struggling offensively, but the score does not reflect how this game played out. United did not dominate the Black & Gold by any stretch but finished the chances given to them, even if the visitors will argue they shouldn’t have been.

Five in a row

Say what you want about how the Crew has played during this run of poor results but it’s been a long time since the Black & Gold have lost five games in a row. Actually, it’s been almost 19 years.

Between Aug. 26 and Sept. 9 of 2000, Columbus dropped consecutive results to the New England Revolution, the Tampa Bay Mutiny, who no longer exist, the San Jose Earthquakes and back-to-back defeats to the Chicago Fire. Some of this has been bad luck, but five-game losing streaks don’t happen very often to this team.

Looking ahead

With 25 minutes to play in the game, Caleb Porter essentially threw in the towel on this match when he took out Gyasi Zardes and Federico Higuain in favor of rookie JJ Williams and Niko Hansen. With the score at 3-0, Porter elected to get two of his star players rest with another busy stretch coming up.

The Crew host the LA Galaxy on Wednesday night, followed by a visit from Los Angeles Football Club on Saturday. This means facing the top two teams in Major League Soccer in a four-day window.