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What We Learned: Crew vs. New York City FC

Our major takeaways from a disappointing defeat in the Bronx.

MLS: Columbus Crew SC at New York City FC Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The Columbus Crew saw the team’s six-match unbeaten run come to an end on Friday night in a big way, as the Black & Gold fell 4-1 to New York City FC in the two teams’ third meeting of the 2021 Major League Soccer season. It was a disappointing result, a disappointing performance and not the way the Crew wanted to begin what will be another busy week in Columbus.

Three-goal losses are never good for a team, but they can sometimes be a wake up call or a teaching moment. The Black & Gold will hope that is the case with this one and look to move on quickly to the next game.

Losses such as this one often teach us a lot about a team and that was certainly the case on Friday night. Let’s take a look at the biggest takeaways from the Crew’s defeat in the Bronx.

The Crew misses Gyasi Zardes

There’s been talk — on this site and others — about the inconsistent struggles scoring goals for Columbus. Not having Zardes for the last five games has proven what a valuable asset he is offensively, as not having the Black & Gold’s leading scorer each of the last three seasons has seen the team score just over one goal per game and struggle to finish the chances that have been there.

If you’re been watching the U.S Men’s National Team in the Gold Cup, you’ve seen how good Zardes is, not only scoring but his all-around game. He is a relentless worker both offensively and defensively and helps make his teammates better.

Would the Crew have won the game against New York City if Zardes were on the pitch? Maybe not, but it’s likely things wouldn’t have gotten so out of hand. While Bradley Wright-Phillips was brought in to play while Zardes was at the Gold Cup, the two are not the same forward. At 36 years old, Wright-Phillips can’t cover the same ground as Zardes and, having just returned from an injury and making just his second start in two months, the forward struggled to be dangerous against City.

Columbus gets Zardes back after the Gold Cup Final on Sunday night, which will help get things going offensively, but the forward will continue to help all over the field and allow Wright-Phillips to return to a reserve role. This will help complete this team’s offense and prevent situations like Friday night.

Eloy Room is human

We were beginning to question what alien possessed the Crew goalkeeper this offseason and turned him into a wall in front of goal. Room has made his case as the best goalkeeper in MLS in recent weeks with some amazing saves and back-to-back shutouts.

But on Friday, Room came back to Earth a bit, with some questionable plays. The one that stands out the most was on the second NYCFC goal in the 35th minute when he came well off his line on the far edge of the penalty box to close down Thiago Andrade. The attacker was not in a scoring position if Room remains on his line and had both defenders Jonathan Mensah and Harrison Afful closing him down. Instead of a cross that Room might have been able to collect, Andrade chipped the sliding goalkeeper for the goal.

At 1-0, Columbus might have gotten to the locker room and been able to readjust. Who knows how the second half goes for a team that has shown the ability to come back from one-goal deficits at the break this season. Instead, the Crew went into the halftime break down two and it appeared most of the confidence drained out of their team.

While this is just one instance, Room has set the standard high and just like we praise him when he does well, we must criticize him when his mistakes cost his team.

It’s worth pointing out that the goalkeeper made a few big saves in the second half to help keep New York City from scoring five goals at Yankee Stadium for the third time this year. There is nothing to worry about with Room, who will continue to be one of the best goalkeepers in MLS, but after how well he played the last few games, it was weird to see a struggling performance from the Curaçao international.

These losses happen

While a 4-1 defeat hurts and isn’t something Columbus wants to deal with often, this isn’t a result to overreact to. MLS is a strange league and good teams lose all the time, especially in weird road environments like Yankee Stadium. As mentioned previously, City has scored five at the team’s home twice this year, including against a very good Orlando City FC team in the game prior to this contest.

Looking around MLS this weekend, the Portland Timbers, a team that is in contention for a playoff spot, also lost 4-1 to the LA Galaxy. FC Cincinnati held an improving D.C. United side to a 0-0 draw. Inter Miami, the league’s worst team this year, got a win in Montreal. Strange things happen in MLS.

While the 4-1 loss was the worst for the Crew since a 3-0 defeat at the hands of the Philadelphia Union early in 2019, it’s not a loss that should define this group. As head coach Caleb Porter said after the game, the Black & Gold didn’t just become a bad team overnight. It was certainly a poor performance and an off game for Columbus, but it’s not something fans should expect from a team that had shown improvements of late and is finally getting its pieces back in place.

What will be crucial is how the Crew responds to this loss and the team will be able to do so quickly with D.C. coming to Field on Wednesday night.