The Columbus Crew are still looking for their first win at a road venue as they furiously came back from a goal deficit twice to tie FC Dallas 2-2. Pedro Santos had a goal and an assist on the night and Youness Mokhar added another goal. The Crew had another goal waved off after review.
The Crew attack struggled throughout the first half as FC Dallas deployed a very effective high press early in the half. The Black & Gold tried to play out of the press, but often turned over the ball in the middle third. Unable to break the press quickly, the attack wasn’t able to create those easier chances.
The hosts had one big chance through the middle of the half and it came from a bit of individual brilliance from Franco Jara. He slipped two defenders and fired a point blank shot that forced a great Eloy Room save.
Columbus would get a few precious chances through the first half. The first came off a set piece chance. Lucas Zelarayan fired in a free kick from deep in the 13th. Josh Williams put a glancing header on the service to slightly redirect the ball. Dallas goalkeeper Jimmy Maurer managed to paw the ball
Youness Mokhtar created his own shot in the 29th minute. He dribbled into the box from the left side. He slipped his defender and saw a bit of daylight and fired a bending right footed shot that forced another great save from Maurer. The Dallas defense cleaned up the rebound.
Dallas had most of the ball in the half, but hadn’t created much danger with all that possession. They would break through on a quick transition in the 38th minute. A quick Matt Hedges pass forward would break out from the back third. Franco Jara would push the pass to Ryan Hollingshead, who quickly found Fafa Picout. The winger drove a long cross across the field to Michael Barrios in open space. He finished the header to make it 1-0 to the home side.
The scoring continued on the other side of the half. The Crew broke through a minute after the restart. Driving down the right flank, Harrison Afful drove a low cross through the penalty area. Santos redirected the ball slightly and it fell to the feet of Youness Mokhtar. The winger finished the wide open look to level the game at 1-1 in the 47th minute.
Dallas would retake the lead on a 53rd minute penalty call. Afful tried to clear a dangerous high ball in the area. Barrios had positioning where the ball was coming down. Afful jumped to meet the ball, but bowled over Barrios. Ted Unkel made a quick call. Rito Ziegler finished the spot kick as Room got a hand to the ball, but was unable to stop it.
Columbus thought they got a second tying goal in the 57th minute. Gyasi Zardes finished a beautiful Luis Diaz cutback cross. The goal quickly underwent a review and Unkel made the call to wave off the goal with Diaz offside on the initial pass.
The Crew continued to push for a comeback goal and they found one five minutes later. Again the chance came off a direct attack. Milton Valenzuela slipped a ball into the 18 yard box for substitute Emmanuel Boateng. The speedy winger cut the ball back with a pass. Zardes made a slight touch and Santos finished off the move with a hammered shot that wasn’t going to get called back.
The game opened up as the half wore on. The best opportunity for the Black & Gold in the 86th minute. With a transition attack, Santos moved the ball to Boateng who slipped it into Zardes. The initial shot was blocked and Santos sent the second chance over the ball.
Dallas had the bulk of the late chances as they hoped to grab a late winner. The home side had six shots in the final ten minutes, but none were on goal. Two were blocked and four missed the frame. Bryan Acosta had a 93rd minute rip from 25 yards that drifted just high of the crossbar.
The Injury List Grows
The team has missed Darlington Nagbe after a knee injury sidelined him for four games in September and he’s not quite ready to come back. Fatai Alashe joined him last week. The Crew added two more names tonight.
Lucas Zelarayan suffered a muscle injury late in the first half. Zelarayan struggled to walk off the field with help from the trainer. He clearly was struggling with what appeared to be a hamstring injury. The playmaker had three key passes in 45 minutes of play.
In the second half, Eloy Room suffered what appeared to be knee injury making a save in the 67th minute. The issue caused a problem as he tried to play out of the back and was forced into a rushed clearance. He had to be substituted in the 71th minute as Andrew Tarbell replaced him.
The Trusty 4-2-3-1
The Crew came out in an attacking posture with what can be called a 4-3-3 or a 4-1-4-1. It didn’t quite function like either. Santos often sat deeper with Artur in midfield while Zelarayan played higher with Zardes. Mokhtar and Diaz paroled the wings. The Black & Gold didn’t look fluid. Dallas kept nearly 60% possession throughout the half and the attack struggled with the Dallas press.
With Zelarayan forced off for Aidan Morris, the team moved into a more open 4-2-3-1. Dallas didn’t press as effectively, but there was clearly more fluency in the system that the team has played nearly exclusively in the Caleb Porter era. The team worked on the change two days this week, but it wasn’t enough to develop comfort with it.
With the tie, the Crew are 9-2-4 on the year and have 31 points. They are first in MLS by goal differential over Toronto FC. It’s another busy week and the Crew host the Montreal Impact on Wednesday night. It’s a 7:30 pm kickoff at MAPFRE Stadium. The team then heads to Orlando for a Sunday evening matchup.