The Columbus Crew dramatically stopped the streak with a come from behind win to stun visiting F.C. Cincinnati. After opening the scoring behind a Lucas Zelarayan goal, the Crew needed two Miguel Berry goals to overturn two Cincinnati goals to claim all three points.
The Crew started far better than the last matchup and controlled the opening minutes. The first chance from Columbus came off a long switch to Luis Diaz in the sixth minute. He attempted a one time attempt that turned into a cross across the goalmouth. Derrick Etienne Jr.’s shot from the left side was parried by Kenneth Vermeer.
The next Black & Gold chance came in the ninth minute after an incisive diagonal played Etienne in on goal. After drawing the defense in, he crossed to the rushing Diaz. His right footed shot hit the upright and caromed out. Zelarayan tracked down the the rebound and found a pocket of space. He clipped a shot over Vermeer and hit the crossbar.
The first good F.C. Cincinnati chance came off a defensive miscue from the Crew in the 14th minute. Vito Wormgoor left a long hopeful ball over the top for Jonathan Mensah who had to scramble under pressure to play the ball back to Eloy Room. Room put his pass into traffic and Brenner collected. His shot hit side netting.
The half chance steadied the visitors as the pace slowed. With the heat, the Crew’s high energy start wilted and F.C. Cincinnati found a bit more of the ball.
The next Cincinnati chance didn’t come from a buildup, but from set pieces. The visitors turned a deep free kick into a corner kick in the 28th minute. One the corner, Florian Valot found space from 10 yards out and powered a header at goal. Bradley Wright-Phillips blocked the on target shot.
After an offensive lull, the Crew supporters rose to their feet after Zelarayan was fouled by Luciano Acosta 27 yards from goal. The 41st minute shot from prime Zelarayan territory never challenged Vermeer, going well high of goal.
Zelarayan had a second chance from 24 yards in the 45th minute after Darlington Nagbe was fouled by Nick Hagglund. Crew faithful were well rewarded with this attempt. With power and precision, Zelarayan bent the past the four man wall and into the upper left corner. Vermeer had no chance to save the goal. Zelarayan sprinted towards the sideline to celebrate, pointing at the Crew crest on his jersey before getting mobbed by the bench.
The lead lasted just a minute as the visitors struck in stoppage time. Cincinnati kept possession off the kickoff and came down the field and created two corners. The Black & Gold defense wasn’t able to clear the danger. After moving the ball around outside the box, Ronald Matarrita unleashed a left footed blast from outside the box the found the oposite corner of Room’s goal.
Zelarayan nearly reclaimed the lead in the 49th minute. After eluding two tackles in midfield, he loosed a blast from 28 yards out that forced a full extension save from Vermeer. Etienne tried to jump on the loose ball, but the ball was stabbed away as he was about to strike it.
Cincinnati recovered and Acosta broke free, slipping a tackle attempt from Jonathan tackle at midfield and bore down on Room. Wormgoor recovered to slow the play down and Harrison Afful recovered the ball and cleared the danger.
In the 51st minute, Wright-Phillips created a bit of panic on the Cincinnati back line as he danced in to the penalty area. He shed the first tackle but went down under pressure on the second tackle. Robert Sibiga didn’t see a foul and video review didn’t call for a second look.
Columbus, again, had another chance to break through. In the 62nd minute, Columbus earned a free kick on the left side of the attacking third. Zelarayan sent in out-swinging service. Mensah slipped his defender and his sinking header forced and outstanding diving save by Vermeer.
The back and forth chances again tipped back towards the visitors with a 71st minute chance. Brandon Vázquez tracked down a pass wide and cut into the penalty area. He pushed a pass centrally to Allan Cruz at the ball at the top of the box. He blazed his shot a foot past the right post.
Columbus again had several chances to break the deadlock. Santos, in transition, found Etienne in space on the right. His shot forced another parrying save from Vermeer. After the resulting corner, Liam Fraser had space on the right and again tested Vermeer who saved the shot in the 74th minute
On the clearance, F.C. Cincinnati found space to break. Acosta again found room as the Crew pushed up. He shed a tackle and found Isaac Atanga on the right side of the box. His shot from 15 yards found the opposite corner to give the visitors the lead.
Columbus pushed forward in hopes of finding an equalizer and crafted one through hopeful shots and goalkeeper error. With F.C. Cincinnati’s defense recovering, Pedro Santos launched a 25 yard shot from distance. Vermeer parried, but left another rebound. This time Berry cleaned up the rebound and scored from six yards out to level the game at 2-2 in the 81st minute.
The tactic worked so well that the Crew tried it again a minute later. Vermeer fumbled yet another ball. The clearance attempt caromed off Berry and into the net. Video review saw no reason to overturn the call and the goal stood, giving the Crew a 3-2 lead in the 82nd minute.
Minutes from the first win in a month, the Crew worked to close out the game. Slowing down play to a crawl. The team, remembering the collapse against the Sounders, defended with renewed ferocity to close out the five minutes of stoppage time.
It took an improbable comeback fueled by the unsure hands of Vermeer, but the Crew finally broke the longest losing streak in team history post shootout era. After struggling to create chances and keeping things tight in defense, the Crew found a bit of luck and made their own. The relief was instant as the bench erupted at the whistle at the end of the streak. After celebrating, the entire team walked down to the north end to salute the Nordecke as they sang “Wise Men Say” to the team.
The Crew rolled up 2.6 expected goals on the evening, but F.C. Cincinnati gifted two chances, Berry’s goals, that added up to 1.08 xG. It’s probably not the most reliable way to create offense as next week’s opponent Orlando City’s goalkeeper, Pedro Gallese has much surer hands. The way it happened didn’t matter to the ecstatic Crew.
The Crew’s season certainly hasn’t gone as planned. It’s still not clear what Cincinnati’s plan is. Supporters of both sides still found something to cheer for. The near capacity crowd of 19,949 provided plenty of noise as the chants echoed around Lower.com Field.
The Nordecke blackout was in effect, as the supporters, clad in black, provided a wall of noise in the north end of the stadium. On the other side of the stadium Cincinnati brought a section and a half to the South end. The supporters taunted each other when one group fell silent after a goal conceded. Even with both teams currently on the outside of the playoff places, the chance for bragging rights provided a little extra energy in the stands.
The streak is over. The win moves Columbus to 7-9-6 on the year. They have 27 points and are level for the last playoff spot with D.C. United, but have played one more game. They now have eight days until they head on the road to play Orlando next Saturday evening for a 7:30 kickoff.