The Columbus Crew’s woes continued on Wednesday night as the team lost for the second straight game and now have a four-game winless streak. This time, the Black & Gold put in a lifeless performance, falling to FC Cincinnati 2-1. The result marks the first time in MLS history Columbus lost a game to its in-state rivals.
Both teams had trouble playing on the quick turf at Nippert Stadium, equally struggling with slips. But the home side adjusted quicker. FC Cincinnati was comfortable on the ball and was able to create danger through quick transitions. The Crew looked rusty, the weekend layoff appearing to hurt the team more than FC Cincy’s short rest.
The opening goal came when the home side was awarded an early penalty. Álvaro Barreal whipped a cross into the crowded Crew penalty area. Black & Gold goalkeeper Andrew Tarbell came off his line and collided with Allan Cruz in the 18-yard box. Referee Rubiel Vazquez made the quick call, pointing to the spot. Despite the protests of the men in yellow, there was no video check and the call stood.
On the attempt, Tarbell dove the opposite way of Yuyo Kubo’s low driven shot and FC Cincinnati was up 1-0 in the 17th minute.
The Crew offense continued to struggle after the goal. Cincinnati tallied seven shots to the Black & Gold’s zero as the half wound to the end.
Finally, Columbus created a chance after playing a little quicker and moving into the attacking third. Harrison Affu played final third ball into Luis Diaz who squared ball into the penalty box but didn’t connect. Emmanuel Boateng reacted, however, and collected the ball, finding Pedro Santos with space. The Portuguese attacker dribbled towards the spot, Tom Pettersson clipped him and the whistle blew.
Santos took the chance and easily beat Cincinnati goalkeeper Robert Edwards to tie the game in the 45th minute.
Cincinnati was quick to retake the lead after the break. The Crew gave up a free kick near the halfway line. Even with the low percentage chance, Nick Hagglund outmuscled the Crew backline and hammered home the free kick service from Haris Medunjanin with a powerful headed effort. The home team took the 2-1 lead in the 49th minute.
The Crew’s struggle in attack continued as the team never looked comfortable with the pressure that Cincinnati put on the ball. The home side was content to play a little deeper with the lead and Columbus simply could not create a clear chance.
Columbus racked up six shots in the second half, but none were truly dangerous. Only Afful’s chance in the 64th minute was on frame, but it was from 25 yards out and was easily saved by Edwards.
The Crew threw numbers forward in the last 10 minutes of the game, but failed to create a chance on goal. The best was Aiden Morris’ headed effort in the 84th minute. With a loose ball falling to him, he headed the ball over the bar.
The Crew had a single shot in the first half, a penalty kick. The team’s first non-penalty shot was in the 64th minute as left back Milton Valenzuela had a crack from inside the 18-yard box that was blocked.
Without Darlington Nagbe and Lucas Zelarayan, both out with injury, the Crew attack has fallen on the shoulders of Pedro Santos. The Portuguese winger tallied a goal but didn’t have a lot of help. Gyasi Zardes, starved for service, had a single shot on goal. Both Emmanuel Boateng and Luis Diaz were ineffective and were subbed early. Their replacements, Youness Mokhtar and Derrick Etienne, weren’t able to create anything of note either.
The Crew defense was on a record pace through the first 10 games of the season. The team now hasn’t had a shutout in five games. With tonight’s goals allowed, the Black & Gold still has the best defensive record in MLS, but are tied with the Philadelphia Union with 14 goals against.
Defense being a team effort, the problems started from the front. The Crew struggled to slow FC Cincy as the home side moved through the middle third, with Kubo finding space several times in the first half. Additionally, the Black & Gold once again struggled on set pieces. Hagglund’s goal was off service from very deep and was a usually lower-chance opportunity, but Medunjanin’s service created problems for Columbus.
With the loss, the Crew falls to 9-4-4 on the season and remain on 31 points. The Black & Gold are behind Toronto FC and the Union in the Eastern Conference. Columbus leads Orlando City by goal differential for the third spot in the conference. The Crew returns to MAPFRE Stadium on Sunday evening as New York City FC comes to town. The game is a 6 p.m. ET kickoff.