The Columbus Crew ended a busy week with a high-intensity 0-0 draw with expansion side Austin FC. Despite a game that featured 32 shots between the teams and 11 shots on target, neither team was able to score a goal as points were shared.
The hosts started the game with a lot of energy in front of a sellout crowd at Q2 Stadium, launching the first shot, a Diego Fagundez effort after just 20 seconds. Without the ball, Austin pressed ferociously causing the Crew considerable issues on the ball. Columbus repeatedly turned the ball over as the Black & Gold tried to progress through the initial pressure.
The best of the early chances for the home side to grab the opener came on another Crew turnover trying to exit the press. After giving the ball away in their own half, the ball quickly moved midfielder to Jared Stroud who unleashed a 19th minute shot that forced an Eloy Room save.
Austin’s intensity dropped after the first 20 minutes and Columbus found a little more time on the ball and was able to build a little rhythm. The team didn’t create many good chances, but turnovers slowed.
The Black & Gold had a solid chance in the 37th minute as the attack scythed through the static Austing defense. After a big switch, winger Kevin Molino slipped an early cross into Lucas Zelarayan. The Argentine’s shot clipped Matt Besler and went out for a corner but the Crew wasn’t able to turn the set piece into a chance.
Columbus again created a chance in the 42nd minute. Afful received the cross-field switch and swung in a whipped cross. Goalkeeper Brad Stuver couldn’t corral the ball, but Julio Cascante cleared the danger before the Crew could collapse on the loose ball.
Jonathan Mensah nearly gifted Austin a goal in the third minute of first half stoppage time with a poor pass that went directly to Cecilio Domínguez. The forward found Tomás Pochettino pushing into space. Pochettino took a couple of touches forward and his shot missed by inches.
The lively first half ended with 19 total shots. The hosts had 12 shots, four on target. Of the Crew’s seven shots, only one was on target.
Columbus opened the second half brightly. Half time substitution Waylon Francis recovered the ball on the sideline and launched a driven ball centrally to Zelarayan. The playmaker uncorked a shot from distance that again clipped Besler and forced a diving save from Stuver.
Austin had another good chance in the 61st minute as Domínguez got off a right footed shot from a Jon Gallagher feed. Fagundez sent a header wide a couple of minutes later as the home side showed signs of life after a post halftime lull.
The Black & Gold chances came in transitions and set pieces. Zelarayan was on the end of a move and his right-footed shot from distance was saved easily in the 72nd minute. The Crew had a big chance off a free kick from distance as Zelarayan sent in a low service towards Gyasi Zardes. The striker turned and his close-range shot was parried by Stuver and cleared in a scrum.
Both sides traded long-range efforts as the game wound towards 90 minutes but weren’t able to create true danger.
The Crew had a halfhearted penalty shout in the 90th minute. Midfielder Darlington Nagbe danced through the Austin defense and drove into the 18-yard box. Alex Ring pushed the midfielder off the ball as it went over the end line. The referee waited for the brief check for a penalty, but never went to the monitor.
Austin had a couple of corners during stoppage time, but the Crew defended well and the home side wasn’t able to get off a shot. Despite the end-to-end action, the game ended without a goal.
Austin ruthlessly attacked down the right in the first half through Stroud and Fagundez. As soon as the ball was recovered, the home side pushed the ball to the right attacking side, the Crew’s left side. Milton Valenzuela and Kevin Molino struggled to contain the danger. Stroud especially found space to create danger through crosses or shots from wide.
The situation forced head coach Caleb Porter into a couple of halftime substitutions. Valenzuela was replaced by Francis and Santos and Molino switched sides with the more defensively capable Santos moving to shore up the left side. Stroud wasn’t as effective and faced fresh defenders before being lifted in the 60th minute for Kekuta Manneh.
Red Bull flashbacks
Those expecting to see Josh Wolff roll out a Gregg Berhalter possession style saw a bit of that, but Austin unleashed a press that likely gave the Crew flashbacks to the New York Red Bulls. No team gave Berhalter teams more problems during his time with the Black & Gold than the Red Bulls. The fierce press unsettled Columbus much of the night.
Austin’s press wanned as the game went on and it’s not surprising that the Crew found a level of fluidity, but the match was played at Austin’s pace most of the night and the Columbus attack was reduced to rare counters and set pieces.
With the tie, the Crew climb into a tie with Nashville at 15 points on a 4-3-3 record. Now it’s on to a belated Black & Gold Week as Lower.com Field officially opens on Saturday. The East-leading New England Revolution opens another Crew stadium with kickoff is 5 p.m. ET on July 3.