Columbus Crew SC lost 1-0 to Real Salt Lake on Wednesday night. It was the team’s third loss in a row, their sixth loss in seven games and 11th loss in 13 games. It was another loss in a season that has 12 of them that has all but crushed the team’s playoff chances.
The game opened hopefully, as the Crew had the first big chance of the game in the 13th minute. Defender Aboubacar Keita, in his first career start, sent a long driven ball into the channel of the Real Salt Lake defense. JJ Williams outpaced his markers and took a touch into the penalty box. Nick Rimando pushed up to meet the play. Williams pushed the ball around the goalkeeper and appeared to be tripped up.
After a lengthy review by the Video Assistant Referee, Alan Kelly, match referee Victor Rivas went to video review. Rivas reviewed the play for over a minute and kept the same call, goal kick to Real Salt Lake.
Columbus continued to look better than the hosts, with fluid play on the ball and moving quickly in transition. The speed of play set up the next Crew chance in the 27th minute. Williams again was sent in on goal, this time by Eduardo Sosa. His cross was blocked for a corner. Defender Alex Crognale met Pedro Santos corner and rang the crossbar. Salt Lake cleared the danger and the game remained 0-0.
Real Salt Lake created the next transition chance, but an outstanding effort from Crognale kept the game scoreless. Bofo Saucedo fired a cross that goalkeeper Joe Bendik wasn’t able to corral and the ball fell to Damir Kreilach. The midfielder fired a shot at the open net, but it was blocked with a goalline save from Crognale in the 31st minute.
The game then fell into a familiar pattern for the Crew, looking fluid on the ball and even creating chances. But a defensive error once again led to a goal. The Crew offense lost the ball in the Salt Lake penalty box and defender Aaron Herrera cleared the ball to midfield. Sam Johnson pressed Crognale and Keita and the ball slipped past the Columbus defenders. Johnson finished his one-on-one attempt against Bendik to make it 1-0 in the 38th minute.
The Crew could not maintain the same energy in the second half as Real Salt Lake attacked and took the initiative. The home side collected a couple long distance shots from Albert Rusnak, but they kept the ball in the attacking zone far more than they did in the first half.
Columbus took back some of the initiative in the 65th minute as Luis Argudo entered the game. The Crew furiously pressed in the midfield and caused a series of turnovers. The Black & Gold failed to turn the energy into shots and Real Salt Lake retained the lead.
Salt Lake eased to the win with a committed defensive performance. The visitors faiedl to record a shot in the last 20 minutes until Argudo launched a shot in stoppage time that was blocked.
The Crew showed energy in the first half, recording five shots and looking good with the ball. The team played with purpose. They failed to put any of those five shots on target. Any of that positive energy of the first half dissipated in the second half. The Crew only had two shots, including the last in stoppage time. They put zero on frame.
Homegrown rookie Aboubacar Keita signed his first professional contract in January and has already had a busy 2019. He made five starts for the U.S. Uneder-20 team in the World Cup and played three times on loan for the Richmond Kickers. He put in a quiet shift with two recoveries and three clearances. He also had the best attacking pass of the evening with his long distribution to Williams in the first half. Keita’s debut is the sole silver lining in another dark team performance.
Columbus is now 5-12-2 with 17 points on the season. They are six points adrift of the playoff places. The Crew return home to face the Seattle Sounders on Saturday evening. The game kicks off at 7:30 at MAPFRE Stadium.