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Crew backline struggles again, fall 4-2 to D.C. United

The Black & Gold’s defense crumbled as D.C. cruised past them at home.

Sam Fahmi - Massive Report

For the first time since 2011, the Columbus Crew conceded four goals in back-to-back games in a 4-2 loss to the visiting D.C. United on Wednesday night. Now, halfway through the season, Columbus finds itself on a two-game losing streak and sitting in seventh place in the Eastern Conference standings with 24 points.

Former Crew striker Ola Kamara put up a brace against his old squad while midfielder Yordy Reyna added two of his own to bury the Black & Gold. Kevin Molino and Lucas Zelarayan put Columbus on the board in quick succession, but the momentum quickly shifted the other way and the effort proved to be not enough.

The loss comes at a time when the Crew has a more complete squad than the team has for much of the season due to injuries and international call-ups. Meanwhile, the United side missed several players due to injury and red card suspensions. On paper, this seemed to be an easy win for Columbus but proved to be anything but.

Both teams spent the first few minutes feeling each other out. Early chances were far from dangerous but the Crew began to gain the edge on possession around the 10th minute.

Striker Erik Hurtado forced D.C. goalkeeper Bill Hamid off his line on a breakaway in the 12th minute. His shot was deflected and picked up by Zelarayan who was ultimately shut down by the United defense as Hamid hobbled back to his line with an apparent leg injury. He was quickly subbed out and former Black & Gold goalkeeper Jon Kempin made his first appearance in the Crew’s new home.

Aboubacar Keita made a detrimental error in the 19th minute when he tripped over the ball right in front of the goal and ended up turning it over to Kamara. The forward had no problem putting it past goalkeeper Eloy Room for his eighth goal of the season.

Zelarayan nearly equalized in the 23rd minute when he ripped a shot from inside the 18-yard box on the right side and just barely missed the inside of the far post.

D.C. United’s high press caused all kinds of problems for the Black & Gold, who turned the ball over frequently. The backline did a good job of disrupting the channels but breakthroughs came more and more. Columbus’ chances only came in transition and on the counter, and the Black & Gold were up five shots to three with seven minutes to play in the first half but simply did not look as dangerous.

In the 40th minute, the seemingly inevitable second goal came for D.C. when Reyna got ahold of the ball on a cross before Waylon Francis could and headed it down past Room to double the visitor’s lead. It was only United’s second shot on frame.

Seven minutes of added time due to a plethora of D.C. injuries should’ve been a relief for a Crew side that desperately needed a goal before halftime. But in just the first minute of added time, Jonathan Mensah got the ball stolen from him by Kevin Paredes. Mensah came from behind and committed a foul, giving D.C. a penalty kick. Unfortunately, Room went the wrong way and Kamara silenced the home crowd with his second goal of the night and his team’s third.

Kamara was subbed out to start the second half for United while Porter opted for no changes right out of the locker room.

Zelarayan was the only member of the Crew offense creating chances and it seemed he was getting no help. His cross in the 50th minute simply needed a runner on the far post to put one away but there was no one in sight.

Luis Diaz and Gyasi Zardes came into the game for Derrick Etienne Jr. and Erik Hurtado, respectively in the 56th minute.

Molino brought some much-needed life to Lower.com Field in the 64th minute. The chance was created by Zardes, who beat Kempin in the penalty box and managed to get the ball back to Molino who blasted it home. It sparked some hope, but there was still a lot of work to be done.

Zelarayan made the impossible seem possible in the 71st minute. Molino’s shot off the crossbar bounced back to the Argentine, who looked poised as he brought the ball to his feet and slotted it past Kempin to bring the home team within one.

It didn’t take long for D.C. United to quiet the stadium once again. In the 74th minute, Reyna got his second of the night after Keita made another error that gave D.C. its fourth goal. The crowd went nearly silent and momentum was lost yet again for the Black & Gold.

Defensive woes

The Crew has now allowed eight goals in the team’s last two games after a brutal 4-1 loss to New York City FC last Friday night. It’s the first time since Aug. 27 and Sept. 10 of 2011, that the team has allowed four or more goals in back-to-back games. Eight goals in two matches haven’t been allowed since 2015, and the last time Columbus allowed three or more in consecutive contests was Oct. 16 and 23 of 2016.

It’s uncharacteristic for a team with such a solid backline,

Halfway through

The difference in this team in the past two weeks is startling. Head coach Caleb Porter has been very content with where his team is at as of late, taking into consideration the lack of depth they’ve dealt with and their ability to grind out points.

Now, however, Columbus has the depth but the points are nowhere to be seen. If anything, the team looks worse than all this year. Fans expected to see a positive response from the team after Friday’s loss Wednesday night. Now time will tell if the Crew will turn it around on Saturday.

What’s next

The Black & Gold have another quick turnaround, but no travel to account for as they take on Atlanta United at home this Saturday, Aug. 7 at another 7:30 p.m. kickoff. Columbus defeated Atlanta in a massive 1-0 road win on July 24 and will look to grab another three points, this time at Lower.com Field.