The Columbus Crew opened Lower.com Field on Saturday evening, hoping to introduce the team’s new home to Major League Soccer with a victory. The Crew wasn’t able to do that, but did battle back from a 2-0 first half deficit to 2-2 draw with Eastern Conference-leading New England Revolution.
Backed by the deafening crowd, the Columbus nearly struck twice in the first two minutes. Winger Luis Diaz, at pace, turned fullback Dejuan Jones, cut inside and unleashed a left-footed shot that blazed past the right post within 30 seconds of kickoff.
In the third minute, Revolution goalkeeper Matt Turner’s passing clearance attempt fell to Harrison Afful. The right back cut from the right side, danced centrally, and unleashed a right-footed shot that followed the same path as Diaz’s did moments before.
New England weathered the the initial Crew attacking pressure and struck against the run of play in the 13th minute. Attacking from right back, Jones pushed forward with the ball to the end line. Tajon Buchanan beat Milton Valenzuela to the spot and out jumped the left back, hit the cross bar with the header and scored the first goal in Lower.com Field history.
Columbus had a couple of half chances to equalize shortly after the goal but Gyasi Zardes sent a glancing header well right of the post off a Lucas Zelarayan corner in the 15th minute. Zelarayan’s direct free kick in the 20th minute hit the wall. The Argentine playmakers 27th free kick from distance avoided the wall, but was an easy save from Turner.
The Revs soon doubled the lead in the 30th minute. The Crew struggled to full clear a corner and the visitors had a fresh chance to attack. Buchanan found ample space with the defense out of shape after the corner on the right side and played a low cross across the goalmouth that Gustavo Bou finished with easy chance on the doorstep to make it 2-0.
Columbus steadied and fought back with a 39th minute goal to cut the deficit in half. In transition, Afful found space on the right side and sent a low, early cross into Zardes. The forward took a touch and turned from 18 yards out. His shot found the far corner, past the outstretched arms of Turner.
The Black & Gold pushed for an equalizer as the second half opened, but weren’t able to threaten a Revs team that was content to defend with numbers and strike on the counter. The Crew had some possession, but didn’t threaten.
With New England comfortable, Columbus’ equalizer came off a miscue at the back off a long, hopeful pass forward from second half substitute Liam Fraser. His chipped pass caromed off the head of the retreating Andrew Farrell. The ball redirected toward the Revolution goal past the onrushing Turner. Zardes pressed to push the ball home, but Farrell cleared the ball into Turner and back into the goal in the 69th minute.
The goal opened the game as the Crew looked for a goal to open the new home with a victory. The Revolution looked for the goal to restore what they might have felt was their rightful lead, however neither team was able to test the opposition goalkeeper.
Columbus created a half chance in the 86th minute when Turner covered a loose ball with Alexandru Matan lurking. Matan dove in, but just ended up colliding with Turner. A scrum ensued as both sides traded words before the referee ensured cooler heads prevailed.
The Black & Gold nearly grabbed the winner in stoppage time after putting the Revolution under pressure. Matan launched a close -ange shot that was blocked. Afful’s followup was blocked again. Darlington Nagbe’s shot from 20 yards was the deflected for a corner. The Revolution drew a foul on the resulting corner and the game ended on the resulting punt.
Big Game Atmosphere
The move to Lower.com Field promised a new era for the Crew. The atmosphere was electric. A sellout crowd of 20,407 filed in from the March to the Match, filling local bars before the game, and filling the concourses as they arrived.
Once the game started, the fans never stopped making noise from the constant chanting of the Nordecke and the cheers for every big play during the game. This was unlike any Crew match in the team’s history. The only disappointment on the day was not taking all three points.
Injuries and Absences
The Gold Cup is hitting at the Crew’s depth. Zardes will depart after today’s game, Winger Derrick Etienne Jr. has already joined the Haiti National Team and Kevin Molino is with the Trinidad and Tobago team. Adding in Josh Williams, Artur and Bradley Wright-Phillips sidelined by injury, Columbus couldn’t afford losing any more players, however the injury crisis likely is getting worse.
Left back Milton Valenzuela had to be substituted in the 43rd minute after what appeared to be a leg injury. Valenzuela just returned from a thigh injury and faces another spell on the sideline. Waylon Francis replaced him in today’s game.
With today’s tie against the Revolution, the Crew moves to 4-3-4 on the year and has 16 points this season. Columbus head to FC Cincinnati on Friday for the first instance of the Hell Is Real Derby. Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m. ET.