It was all right there for the taking. Then something that Columbus Crew SC fans have seen time and again all season showed itself once more: the Crew’s inability to play an entire game.
A 1-1 draw with the Chicago Fire at home leaves both the Crew and its fans wondering what could have been. With only four games left in the 2019 Major League Soccer regular season, the cloud over MAPFRE Stadium has only gotten darker. Saturday’s contest against the Fire is surely one that head coach Caleb Porter would love to have back. Unfortunately there are no do-overs in MLS.
Let’s take a look at a couple of takeaways that we have from Saturday’s draw.
Playoffs are in the rearview mirror
The slim playoff hopes that remained for the Crew vanished in the blink of an eye following a 94th minute goal from Chicago’s Przemyslaw Frankowski on Saturday night. It was the second game in four which saw Columbus concede a goal after the 90th minute.
Holding on for wins in both games would have put the Crew ahead of the Fire by three points and trailing Toronto FC by the same amount for the final playoff spot. With four games remaining, a three-point gap would have been much more attainable than seven.
Frankly, the Black & Gold will look for a miracle down the stretch. The team’s final four games feature three Eastern Conference playoff sides (as it now stands) in Atlanta United, the Philadelphia Union and Toronto. While the mathematics will say something different, it might be better to suggest that Crew fans begin looking ahead to the 2020 season and beyond.
2019 was always going to be a stepping-stone year
Seeing exactly how Caleb Porter was going to perform at the helm with a bulk of ex-coach Gregg Berhalter’s players was always a concern coming into the season. It started off very smooth: unbeaten in five out of the team’s first six games while winning four. Then blow after blow continued to hit and hit hard.
The injury report piled up for Porter and international duty quickly came, which forced out the players that kept the Black & Gold afloat for so long. The end product saw the team suffer from a slump that fans hoped to only witness in their nightmares. Mix that in with all the uncertainty the club faced over the previous two years about relocation and you get the 2019 version of the Columbus Crew.
It was never a recipe for success despite the positive showings from the Black & Gold early on. That’s not to take anything away from the promise the team has moving forward from what the group group showcased in recent weeks.
Porter needs an entire offseason with HIS team
Sure, managers are forced to take a bulk of the blame for results on a weekly basis. But to be fair to Caleb Porter, he was put in charge without a team that he could truly call his own.
The Crew will look much more solid in later seasons. At the very least, after the coaching staff is able to have longer than five consecutive days of training in between games. Developing a long-term game plan takes time, not in the span of a month-long transfer window.
Despite that, it seems like Porter has brought in some solid players that he can depend on going forward. Luis Diaz looks to be a cornerstone playmaker moving forward. Youness Mohktar has put together some solid strings of minutes. Once Porter can spend meaningful time with his players and develop his version of the Black & Gold, the Crew will be more well-equipped to compete with the best MLS has to offer.