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Columbus Crew earn improbable road tie in New England

Black & Gold steal a point in 1-1 draw

MLS: Columbus Crew SC at New England Revolution Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

Playing the third game in a week, a tired and battered Columbus Crew side stole a point against the league-leading New England Revolution. Despite being under pressure most of the game, the Black and Gold came out with a 1-1 draw behind a Gyasi Zardes goal and a gutty Eloy Room performance to keep playoff hopes alive.

After a cagy opening to the game, the Crew appeared to have a scoring chance in the 5th minute as a long ball fell to Gyasi Zardes behind the defense. A recovering Andrew Farrell pulled down the striker and the whistle blew. The call was for a delayed offside instead of a penalty. After a brief booth video review, the offside call stood and the Revs took possession with a free kick.

After a stretch of Crew possession, New England struck on a quick counterattack in the 8th minute with a long Gustavo Bou pass down the left side that found Tajon Buchanan. Milton Valenzuela and Josh Williams intervened to slow the counter, but the cutback pass found Carles Gil open in the penalty area. After a cut past the recovering Williams, Gil’s driven close-range shot forced a parry from Eloy Room to keep the game scoreless.

The Revolution spent the next ten minutes controlling possession, but struggled to create danger. The Crew struggled to break out of their half as New England looked like the best team in the league, but didn’t have the goal to show for it.

Columbus had a rare excellent chance in the 22nd minute. After breaking the Revs press, the Crew got into the Revs final third. Derrick Etienne Jr. sent in an early cross from wide into the far post. Zardes ran hard into the space but pushed his header over the bar. The chance was a golden opportunity to take a stunning lead on the road against the Supporters Shield leaders.

The Revolution were nearly gifted the opening goal in the 24th minute. Trying to play through the Revs press, Josh Willams played a pass from the left side of the goal back to Room, but Gustavo Bou was in the passing lane and easily intercepted the ball inside the six-yard box and turned on the Crew goal. Room rushed out quickly to block the shot and kept the game scoreless.

New England kept the pressure up for the rest of the half, but struggled to break down the committed defense from the Crew. The best chance of the rest of the half came in the 34th minute as Buchanan took a pass into the box and was one on one with Valenzuela. He turned the Argentine back the wrong way and blazed his tight angled shot across goal. Otherwise, the hosts were left to shoot from distance as Gil had two chances within five minutes of halftime from outside the box that briefly raised pulses, but blazed well wide of goal.

Columbus had an excellent chance just after halftime. With a rare spell of possession, the Crew finally got numbers in the final third in the 48th minute. Alex Matan pushed to the top of the penalty area, drawing the Revs defense. He spotted the overlapping run of Saad Abdul-Salam and slipped a pass into the now left back who pushed towards the end line and cut the ball into Zardes. The forward tapped the ball back to Berry. His shot from 10 yards out was right at Matt Turner who saved easily.

The Revs reestablished their hold on the game and continued to pile on the pressure. The Crew drew deeper and the backline withstood the wave of Revs attack. The home side peppered Columbus with five shots in the ten minutes after the Crew chance. Adam Buksa had an off-target balance header in the 50th minute and a shot from just inside the 18-yard box in the 51st minute. Tommy McNamara, Bou, and Buchanan fired off hopeful shots from distance that Columbus handled with ease.

After the long stretch in their own end, Columbus capitalized on the rare chance forward in the 58th minute. Breaking on a quick counterattack, Darlington Nagbe found halftime sub Harrison Afful on the right side. The Ghanian placed an inch perfect cross on the head of Zardes in traffic. This time the forward buried the shot, placing his header too far for Turner to stop.

The Crew lead lasted just four minutes as a defensive error gifted New England a breakaway chance. In possession, Jonathan Mensah attempted to switch field, but his under-hit ball was easily intercepted by Buksa. The Polish striker buried the shot to tie the game 1-1 in the 62nd minute.

With the goals, the game opened up. The Crew pushed out of the low block several times, chasing a chance at three points, but Columbus wasn’t able to get a shot off. Several times the Revs countered quickly, but with little of the fluency of earlier in the game. The Crew defense remained up to the challenge and roached several low percentage chances as the game wound down to the final minutes.

The Crew’s chances to steal a point took a blow in the 85th minute as Room appeared to pick up a groin injury on a goal kick. He struggled for a minute before going down to stop play. He was clearly hampered by the injury, but with the Crew out of subs, he pushed on.

He saved two Buksa shots in the 90th minute and caught a Brandon Bye header in the seventh minute of stoppage time for the final play of the game to seal the win.

Under Pressure

The Crew came out in a 4-4-2 and played compact for much of the game. Without Lucas Zelarayan and Pedro Santos, Columbus was without two key playmakers and the plan was to try and steal a result. That meant the Black & Gold spent most of the game under immense pressure as the hosts pushed forward for much of the game.

The stats were ugly. The possession edge wasn’t an edge, it was a gulf 62% to 38% to New England. The Crew had six shots on the night, New England fired in 33. The Expected Goals was 2.9 to 1.1 in favor of New England.

In the end, the plan worked. The defense stayed compact and kept most of the Revs shots outside the penalty area and low percentage. They had only a few chances to push forward, but they counter attacked well to craft a few high percentage chances. It added up to a draw with the Eastern Conference leaders to keep playoff hopes alive.

The Legend of Eloy Room

Like much of the team, 2021 hasn’t been Room’s best season. From the ever-changing lineups in front of him and the uneven performances in a couple of key moments, the Crew goalkeeper hasn’t had as many otherworldly performances that fans have come to expect.

Tonight, Room put in a titanic performance. He was steady as he organized a backline that faced 33 shots on the night. He made six saves, which is solid. It was his condition that makes his performance legendary. Suffering from a groin injury late in the game, Room wasn’t able to make any quick moments but still came up with three saves. Relying on his positioning and his reflexes, he stopped to Buksa shots in the 90th minute to keep the Revs off the board. He was in the right place to end the game, catching Bye’s header with ease.

It was a gutty performance when the Crew absolutely couldn’t afford to lose. Room saved again.

What’s Next

The tie moves the Crew to 8-11-7 and 31 points on the year. It also keeps the Crew three points behind the last playoff spot currently held by Montreal and D.C. United. Columbus has a week to prepare for their next game as fellow playoff hopefuls Montreal C.F. come to Lower.com field on Saturday for a 7:30 E.T. game.