The Columbus Crew traveled to take on the Philadelphia Union on Wednesday night, looking for the team’s fourth straight win but was met instead with a feisty Union side who handed the Black & Gold their third loss of the season. The deciding goal came from Jamiro Monteiro in the 24th minute and sent Columbus back home without a point.
It was the two team’s second meeting after playing to a draw in Columbus on the opening day of the 2021 Major League Soccer season. Coming into the match, the Union sat third in the Eastern Conference with the Crew one point behind them in fourth place.
The Black & Gold are now 4-3-2 while the Union move to 5-2-3 and extend their unbeaten streak to seven games.
Columbus was the better side through the first 15 minutes of the match. Though shots were few and far between, the visitors got crosses into the penalty box and the backline was poised and comfortable.
Around the 20th minute, the Union found their footing and had a flurry of chances. In the 24th minute, Philadelphia broke through on the score sheet when Jamiro Monteiro was left unmarked and squared up with the goal. Midfielders Liam Fraser and Darlington Nagbe were sucked too far left. A well-placed shot flew right past the Crew defense and goalkeeper Eloy Room and put the Union up 1-0.
Fraser made up for the lost goal with a huge clearance right in front of Room in the 35th minute amidst constant Union pressure. The Canadian midfielder cleared the ball off the line — on a play that may have ultimately been ruled offside — to prevent a 2-0 deficit.
The Philadelphia pressure did not let up through the rest of the half. The Crew got a decent chance in the 48th minute that led to a corner to finish out the half but the Black & Gold still went into the locker room down 1-0.
Porter put on Lucas Zelarayan for Kevin Molino to start the second half, but still his squad seemed to be in a lull early. Valenzuela came on for Alexandru Matan, pushing Pedro Santos to his normal position on the wing, in his first appearance since April after being out with injury.
In the 72nd minute, Matt Real was shown a straight red after a foul on Zelarayan despite getting the ball. It didn’t take long after reviewing the play for the referee to downgrade the call to a yellow card.
Marlon Hairston — who subbed in for Derrick Etienne Jr. in the 76th minute for his first appearance with Columbus — got in a 1 vs. 1 situation with Union keeper Andre Blake but was unable to pass him in what was the Crew’s best chance of the half.
In the end, the Black & Gold fell 1-0 despite controlling much of the game and dominating the statistics thanks to the first half finish.
Depth has been the hot topic of the season for the Crew and fans got to see even more of it Wednesday night. With midfielder Artur still out with injury, Liam Fraser got his second straight start. Vito Wormgoor started over Josh Williams at center back for his first appearance since May 29. Playmaker Kevin Molino finally made his first start for the Crew after making his debut as a substitute on Saturday following his signing in January.
Caleb Porter made the decision to keep Santos at left back, which has been a major asset for the Crew in recent weeks. The Black & Gold have now started 23 different players in MLS games.
Not only was the Union riding the momentum of a six-game unbeaten streak, but the team felt the energy of a full house for the first time since 2019. That same energy spurred the Black & Gold to a 2-0 win against Chicago on Saturday, but the visitors felt the adverse affects of it on Wednesday.
Columbus will travel to Austin, Texas on Sunday to take on Austin FC for the first time. The kickoff is scheduled for 8 p.m. ET. Austin currently sits at 11th in the Western Conference with a record of 2-3-5.