In the final home match of the 2019 season, Columbus Crew SC was able to power through to a 2-0 victory against the Philadelphia Union. It was yet another home game for Columbus this year where rain helped dictate the play throughout the match. The game resulted in Philadelphia missing out on the top seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. With a win, the Union’s next matchup against New York City FC could have determined that spot.
Both teams came out strong and got their fair share of chances to open the game. The Union got the nod in the possession battle out of the gate, maintaining the ball 62 percent of the time through the first 15 minutes.
Columbus got its first quality chance when an attempt by Luis Diaz went just over the post after a shot from inside the penalty box. The winger had another close attempt in the 24th minute when his effort was ultimately saved.
Although Philadelphia had the edge in the first half possession battle with 55 percent, the Black & Gold had the better opportunities. The home side knocked on the door on numerous occasions to close out the first half, including a glaring chance in the 42nd minute when left back Connor Maloney was played through by Pedro Santos. The third-year player misplayed the ball by putting it just behind a streaking Gyasi Zardes in front of goal.
An increase in precipitation helped close out a first half which caused sloppy play on both sides of the ball. A severe weather delay issued at halftime postponed the match nearly 30 minutes. Not only did the rain continue into the second half, but so did the monotonous play between the two sides to start the second 45 minutes.
It wasn’t until the 51st minute until another clear opportunity came. This time, it was Philadelphia’s Kacper Przybylko who got in behind for a one-on-one opportunity against Eloy Room. The Crew goalkeeper ultimately denied a potential opening goal.
Six minutes later, the Black & Gold created two opportunities of their own. A shot by Santos sailed over the goal and two minutes after, a shot by Youness Mokhtar was saved by Philadelphia goalkeeper Andre Blake.
A giveaway at midfield by Artur nearly led to a Union goal just after the 60th minute mark. Luckily for Columbus, the was eventually played out behind the line. Moments later, Philadelphia created its best chance of the match with a cross played in front of goal went just over the crossbar by midfielder Jamiro Montiero.
It seemed as if neither side would find the breakthrough goal as steady play trickled throughout the remainder of the match. However, Columbus converted a four-on-three breakaway in the 69th minute and found the opener. Mohktar opened his Major League Soccer goal-scoring account after a close-range finish. It was assisted by Santos and proved to be the game-winner.
The Black & Gold stepped on the gas after going out in front and found a second goal shortly after the first. A low-driven shot by Santos found the bottom corner in the 73rd minute to put the Crew up by two. The finish marked Santos’ 11th goal of the season for the Crew.
A strong defensive effort from Columbus helped the home side see out the remainder of the game as Philadelphia did what it could to try and salvage a result.
With the win, Columbus now has 11 on the season and officially exact revenge on a team that beat them 3-0 earlier in the season. The clean sheet ended a franchise-record 26 consecutive games conceding at least a goal.
New guys made their mark
Sunday’s match should do very well for Crew fans moving forward as each of their three newest additions made match-changing impacts.
Goalkeeper Eloy Room got his first clean sheet for the Black & Gold. Winger Youness Mohktar registered his first goal and Luis Diaz flashed his abilities time and time again. It was only a matter of time before Caleb Porter’s newest signees began to make their mark.
When asked about what his first goal in a Crew uniform meant even at the end of the season, Mohktar said, “It was a good feeling. It’s unfortunate (at the same time) because I feel like I am just now getting started.”
A match of many accomplishments
Not only did Columbus deny Philadelphia the opportunity to contend for the top seed in the Eastern Conference, but Sunday’s victory marked the club’s 200th home victory at MAPFRE Stadium.
It also carried on a span of solid outings in home finales. Since 2014, the Black & Gold are 6-0-0 in these games. Their last home finale defeat came in 2013 in a 1-0 loss to the New England Revolution.
After the match, Caleb Porter credited “continuity” to Sunday’s victory. Continuity, indeed.
The conclusion of the 2019 season for the Black & Gold is next Sunday, Oct. 6 as the team travel to face Toronto FC. Kickoff is at 4:00 p.m. ET.