Columbus Crew 2 came into Suburau Park looking to jump up to the top spot in the MLS NEX TPro. However, Philadelphia Union II gave the visitors a much tougher fight than to be expected for a team below the playoff line. A shocking last-minute stellar goal handed the Black & Gold their third loss on the season, falling to Philadelphia 2-1.
Crew 2’s form as of late has reflected the first teams, entering the game on a seven-match unbeaten streak that included back-to-back four-goal victories. The Union II most recently earned a win that broke a three-game losing streak. In the first meeting between the two sides earlier this year, Columbus found a way to pull out a hard-fought 1-0 win thanks to a Jacen Russell-Rowe goal.
Crew 2 was without the star forward, Russell-Rowe, but did have fullback Mo Farsi back after he signed and played with the first team last week.
The first chance for the Black & Gold came later than usual in the 23rd minute from a beautiful ball by forward Nico Fuson to captain Marco Micaletto. But Philadelphia defender Matt Real was all over the ball to stop Micaletto from an easy shot.
Both teams looked slightly timid and didn’t want to take the risk of making the first mistake during the first 30 minutes. That philosophy benefited Columbus, who controlled the possession with 62 percent until Union II began to break down the visitors after the first half hour.
In the 33rd minute, Philadelphia opened the scoring with a through ball from forward Christopher Donovan to midfielder Paxten Aaronson for a goal. It’s one that will haunt Crew 2 defender Abdi Mohamed who got his foot on the ball in the penalty box but fell before closing out, resulting in a goal for Union II.
Minutes later, it could have been even worse for the Black & Gold if it wasn’t for defender Jordan Morris’ crucial last-second stop in the 18-yard box to keep the game from going 2-0 as temper began to rise as the first-half whistle sounded.
Columbus opened the second half with much more energy and a great chance resulted on a ball from defender Ryan Telfer to Fuson in the penalty box early in the second stanza. Crew 2 players yelled for a handball but just received a corner.
Philadelphia had the home team’s next chance in the 55th minute from an incredible strike by midfielder Cole Turner from outside the 18-yard box that hit the right post. The rebound came to midfielder Quinn Sullivan but his attempt went wide.
At the 60th minute mark, Farsi and Micaletto combined again before the ball went to midfielder Isaiah Parente for a huge strike from outside the penalty. box. However, Union II goalkeeper Matthew Freese was there to make another stop.
In the 64th minute, the Black & Gold finally found the net from a long ball by Mohamed to Fuson. The forward was the beneficiary of two confused center backs and an indecisive goalkeeper which allowed for open space for a header to level the match at 1-1.
The 70th minute saw Philadelphia create a great chance but didn’t have a forward in the 18-yard box to finish a cross. Columbus attempted to capitalize on the counter, with Morris playing a terrific ball that almost found Fuson but instead the game remained deadlocked.
It was the chemistry between Mohamed and Fuson that was on full display again in the 79th minute. The two nearly connected on another chance. Head coach Laurent Courtois decided to put Farsi as the left back late in the game and the fullbacks Farsi and Mohamed began to deliver long balls to each other.
An 81st-minute controversy struck when Telfer sent a ball into Fuson in the penalty box. Real played great defense and cleared the ball but Fuson went down with Crew 2 players on the field and those on the bench screaming for a penalty kick that was not given.
The 91st minute saw one of the best goals in MLS NEXT Pro when forward Stefan Stojanovic scored an incredible volley from a cross by defender Nathan Harriel to give Philadelphia a 2-1 lead that proved to be the game-winner. The Black & Gold were left stunned, thinking. they were getting at least a point and heading to a penalty shootout.
Crew 2 plays at Lower.com Field for the second time this year next week. This match is against New York City FC II next Sunday at 5 p.m. ET.