It was yet another disappointing game for the Columbus Crew when the team played host to the Montreal Impact Wednesday night at MAPFRE Stadium. After a 2-1 defeat to the Canadian foes, it was the third game in a row that the Crew dropped points and a second loss in three matches.
This loss was the first for the Black & Gold at home in the 2020 Major League Soccer season and also snapped a 12-game home winning streak dating back to July 2019. Ironically, it was a subsequent 2-1 victory against Montreal at MAPFRE Stadium.
Here are a few of our major takeaways following Wednesday nights matchup.
Supporters’ Shield hopes are dwindling
It was after the MLS is Back Tournament was when the Crew held a firm lead on the race for the Supporters’ Shield while looking unbeatable. As of Wednesday’s result, the lead is officially lost and will be tough to regain. With injuries to key starters in Eloy Room, Darlington Nagbe, Lucas Zelarayan and now questions with Milton Valenzuela, things aren’t getting easier for a team that is taking one hit after another.
The time may be better spent focusing on securing the best possible playoff spot for the Black & Gold and if possible, home-field advantage as the rest of the league near the top of the standings continues to get results and the toughest stretch of the season still remains. Mix in the inconsistencies that the Black & Gold have shown recently and it’s getting tougher to see a scenario where Columbus can finds itself in prime position for a 2020 Supporters’ Shield triumph.
MLS Cup is the coveted prize that most fans would be happiest with along with the team. Shifting a focus toward getting players healthy for that final push and avoid asking them to overextend in a busy schedule, even if it sacrifices some points, may be the best approach in the long run.
Despite the knocks the Crew has taken in recent weeks, it’s hard to excuse the team for the mistakes it has consistently shown in these past few games. The side was exposed by Toronto FC and most recently embarrassed by a Impact team who was a heavy underdog heading into the match.
Of course, there were many things that have not gone the Black & Gold’s way. Key starters who are integral to the team’s identity are hurt. Yes, the VAR call on Hector Jimenez for a penalty on Bojan was questionable. And yes, the team could not find an end product in a game where it dominated possession.
Taking off the black and gold-colored glasses, it’s simply impossible to make an excuse in a game where the Crew was the heavy favorite, dominated possession and had 19 total shots and only a single goal (which, anyone will admit, was a bit of fortune). Montreal was more than happy allowing Columbus possession, as a lot of teams have in 2020, and was able to shake Columbus up by committing a game-high 17 fouls.
A defense that allowed only four goals in the first 11 games, the Black & Gold are now looking suspect on the defensive side of the ball. With eight goals conceded in its previous four, a defense that once looked amongst the best in league history is developing question marks and uncertainty.
Whether fatigue is setting in or confidence is dropping because of the absences of key players, things need to change fast for the Black & Gold who are beginning to look like a shell of the team that looked unfazable while breaking numerous defensive records.
Aidan Morris is quite the talent
Nobody called upon Columbus Homegrown midfielder Aidan Morris to make an immediate impact in his first career MLS start, but it was obvious from the get-go that the rookie was in for a good night when he snuffed out a Montreal offensive chance in the defensive third. Apart from the offensive playmaking from Pedro Santos, Morris was the lone bright spot for the Black & Gold Wednesday night.
Morris boasted the best passing accuracy for the Crew at 94.1 percent. It was a more-than-serviceable appearance that left fans jumping for joy for a player that was getting it done on both ends. Additionally, the 18 year old had two key interceptions on the defensive side and played a key pass to Santos who nearly was able to find a goal for the Crew.
It’s never expected for a young player, especially in a first career start, to look as if he was a seasoned veteran who had done it time and time again previously. With the question marks surrounding the Black & Gold at this current point in time, it’s Morris made an exclamation in this contest and could as well going forward.