Another blown lead, this time on the last kick of the game is something no Columbus Crew SC fan needed to learn again.
Following Saturday’s 1-1 draw with the Vancouver Whitecaps, Columbus sits six points from the seventh and final playoff spot currently held by the New England Revolution, who has a game in hand. It does move the Crew one step closer to making a late case for a postseason spot.
Here are the biggest takeaways from Saturday’s tie in Canada.
The playoff race that is. It’s over in spirit and soon will be over in fact. The Crew has two games remaining in the 2019 season and can get to 41 points if the Black & Gold win out. That would only match New England, currently on 41 points with three games left. Columbus has to win against the Philadelphia Union at home and Toronto FC on the road to even have a chance to make the playoffs. The Revolution eliminate the Crew if they take a single point against the Portland Timbers, New York City FC or Atlanta United.
The Chicago Fire has two games left and three points on the Black & Gold. The Montreal Impact has two points on Columbus, Orlando City SC has one. The Crew would need a collapse from every team still scrapping for the seventh spot and a lot of help. It’s not going to happen.
The playoffs were always a long shot, but now it’s an infinitesimal chance. Columbus can be eliminated before the team even plays its next game.
The team can’t close
This is the measure of the Vancouver defense. The home team had eight shots during the game and only three on target. The Fredy Montero goal was the only one from inside the six-yard box. The defense comprehensively cut out so much danger through 90 minutes of the game that Eloy Room had two saves in the game, both within the first 10 minutes.
But despite not giving up a shot since the 70th minute and having a 90 percent win probability going into stoppage based on American Soccer Analysis win probability tool, the Crew came away with a tie.
With the team flagging, Caleb Porter made two second half substitutions, brining on Wil Trapp for David Guzman and Luis Argudo for Youness Mokhtar. The normally indefatigable Gyasi Zardes slowed down, Artur and Trapp weren’t sharp down the stretch. And of course, Connor Maloney got beat on a header. With another option on the bench, Porter may want to go another direction to close out the game.
More reinforcements needed
The team’s form post transfer window is improving, but this is still a flawed group. That improvement is tangible. In the 11 games after the record 1-13-1 swoon (0.27 points per game), the Crew is 4-1-6 (1.64 ppg). That form over a whole season would come out to 55 points over 34 games and good for fourth in the Eastern Conference this year. That’s hosting a playoff game.
Digging a little deeper and there’s clear concerns. There have been solid wins against two teams in Atlanta and the New York Red Bulls, but this team has also dropped points at home against FC Cincinnati, Toronto FC and Chicago during this stretch. These are games better teams should win.
Winger Luis Diaz is a difference maker, creating several chances out of nothing on Saturday. Eloy Room appears to be a solid player between the pipes for the next several years. Youness Mokhtar has been the starter since joining the team, but his performances haven’t been outstanding. Romario Williams and Jordan Hamilton remain depth options at striker.
The offense is missing a playmaker. Pedro Santos is effective in transition, but is not a creator when the game slows down. His five assists is tied for the team lead with Federico Higuain even though he’s played twice the minutes. Questions now surround Trapp after being relegated to the bench for the second straight game. Guzman isn’t the long-term answer, but there’s a growing chance that the Crew midfield looks drastically different in 2020.