The first Hell is Real Derby ended in a 2-2 tie as the Columbus Crew stormed back from a two goal deficit to share the points. A first half Gyasi Zardes goal and a second half Pedro Santos strike weren’t enough to get the three needed points at the Black & Gold try and keep slim playoff hopes alive.
FC Cincinnati pressured early and the Crew struggled to cope in the first few minutes. The ball spent much of the time in the Columbus end. The home team broke the pressure with a direct balls over the top, but failed to build off them. Cincinnati would pick up the ball in the mid-third and immediately pushed forward, putting the Crew back under pressure.
Despite FCC’s early success, it was the Crew that nearly struck first. Luis Diaz nearly broke the 0-0 deadlock in the 15th minute off a volley off a corner. Wil Trapp’s corner was headed to the back side of the box and the Costa Rican winger met the ball and sent it just over the bar.
Dodging a Crew chance, FC Cincinnati broke through as an unmarked Darren Mattocks met corner and powered a header to grab the opener. Victor Ulloa bent a ball towards the Crew goal and with the defense flatfooted, the visitors went up 1-0 in the 16th minute.
FC Cincinnati continued to counterpunch and would land a second goal in the 23rd minute. Playing down the left, Roland Lamah sent a driven ball that cut through the Crew 18 yard box. The ball fell to Emmanuel Ledesma and he would finish the chance from at tight angle to extend the lead.
Columbus finally found some possession after going down two goals, but the FCC defense held firm under the increasing pressure. Gyasi Zardes popped a header off a corner that Przemyslaw Tyton picked out of the air in the 33rd minute to end the chance.
Tyton again came up with a big stop as the first half wound towards halftime. Jonathan Mensah nodded on a header to the back side of the box. He scrambled and snuffed out a Zardes shot from just off the goal line. The miraculous save in the 42nd minute kept the margin at two.
The pressure, and Zardes’ tireless running, finally resulted in a goal for the Crew just before halftime. Harrison Afful sent in a cross from near midfield. Zardes jumped to meet the ball, but was pushed in the back Maikel van der Werff. As Zardes tumbled, referee Silviu Petrescu already started pointing to the spot. The call didn’t went to a video review check and Zardes scored from the spot in the 45 minute to cut the deficit in half.
The game opened up in the second half, but neither team was able to create chances. Santos fired off a long shot just after halftime and Andrew Gutman tapped across past the post.
Columbus finally turned a driving attack into a goal and it was a thunderbolt from Santos that evened the score. Afful drove the ball up the right side and quickly swung the ball centrally to Wil Trapp. He found a driving run from Santos. The Portuguese playmaker took a touch and uncorked a left footed drive from 25 yards that round the upper left corner to tie the game in the 62nd minute.
FC Cincinnati bunkered in an attempt to grab a point on the road, but the Crew kept pushing for a goal.
The Crew had a golden opportunity late in the game as they broke forward. New signing Youness Mokhtar took a pass from Romario Williams into space. He sent a cross to a wide open Zardes on the doorstep. His shot from inside the six yard box rang off the crossbar. A shot easier to miss than make.
The Black & Gold rang the crossbar a minute later as David Accam’s shot from inside the box hit the crossbar.
Accam nearly broke free on a breakaway attempt, but two FCC players attempted to arm tackled him. He broke free of Ulloa’s attempt and was slowed down Allan Cruz. Petrescu called the foul, stopped the play, and awarded two cards on a play that more at home at Ohio Stadium than MAPFRE.
Zardes nearly redeemed himself twice deep in stoppage time. First with a header in the 9th minute of stoppage time that forced Tyton to parry the ball over for a corner. On the corner, Zardes once again forced Tyton into a save. The last chance before Petrescu blew the whistle.
Going For Three
Caleb Porter knew that the Crew needed three points and the substitutions showed it. Due to injury, Columbus had no defenders on the bench, but Porter brought on Youness Mokhtar for Diaz early in the second half in an attempt to change the game. He then brought in David Accam, replacing Luis Argudo, to stretch the game. Finally, he lifted defender Connor Maloney for Romario Williams, going with two forward. The moves paid off in chances, the Crew had 10 shots in the second half, including two that rang the post and four more that forced Tyton into big saves.
Crew starting to roll (but is it too late)
Desperately needing a win, Caleb Porter took an optimistic tack in his post game comments. He pointed to the chances that the Crew created and how they dominated the game. The home side outshot the visitors 19 to 7, including a furious last minute attempt to earn all three points where Columbus fired off four shots. The biggest crowd of the season, a sell out of 20,865, left MAPFRE not quite believing what they saw. A furious comeback, a missed sitter, and multiple shots off the crossbar. The Crew are now 2-0-3 in their last five games, the longest results streak of the season. Unfortunately, a tie tonight pulls them further from the playoffs.
The Crew host Toronto FC next Saturday night at 7:30 pm. It’s the first game of the Trillirum Cup, but more importantly Toronto currently holds the final playoff spot. Any miraculous run to the playoffs starts with a win next week.