While Columbus Crew 2 left DRV PNK Stadium with two points after a 1-1 draw and a penalty kick shootout victory against Inter Miami II on Sunday, the team will be disappointed not to have taken all three points from the match. A victory in regulation would have seen Crew 2 clinch the top spot in MLS NEXT Pro this season. The Black & Gold, however, still control their destiny, needing only a single point in the final game of the regular season.
Both teams struggled to gain any real advantage in the first half of Sunday’s match. Columbus was content to play long balls or crosses from the left flank from wing back Jake Morris but Inter was able to win these attempts to get forward. Miami II had trouble breaking down Crew 2 and had the team’s best chance of the half when an errant pass back caught defender Phillip Quinton and goalkeeper Patrick Schulte guessing as to who the ball was played to. Miami latched onto the poor pass and was one on one with Schulte. Instead of shooting, the Inter attacker tried a back heel pass into empty space that Quinton cleared.
The Black & Gold broke the deadlock in the 30th minute thanks to forward Noah Fuson playing captain Marco Micaletto in on goal. Forward Jacen Russell-Rowe rushed to meet the through ball, pulling a defender with him, only to dummy the ball and allowing Micaletto to beat the remaining defender and hammer home a shot past Miami goalkeeper CJ Dos Santos. Before this sequence, the best chance for the Black & Gold was a cross from Morris that saw a defender clear the ball right to his own net, where Dos Santos had to scramble to keep the ball out.
Miami II equalized shortly after halftime by way of a tap-in for forward Shanyder Borgelin in the 50th minute. Midfielder Benja Cremaschi found himself with acres of space after Columbus defender Tristian Weber was caught out of position. Cremaschi had plenty of time to find a poorly marked Borgelin to tie the game up. This was a result of Inter coming out of the halftime break with plenty of intensity and Columbus only woke up once the team conceded a goal.
The home side played a desperate second half as the team saw its playoff chances fading. Fouls and yellows piled up, as Miami received five cautions, including one to the team’s head coach, Darren Powell. Miami substitute midfielder Braxton Taghval-Najib was issued two yellows in the span of six minutes, with the second yellow coming for dissent, and was sent off, leaving his team with just 10 men for the final 12 minutes plus stoppage time and the shootout.
Being up a man, Crew 2 was able to establish more of the attack but ultimately could not find the back of the net. Russell-Rowe was able to get onto a long ball behind the last Inter defender and go one on one with Dos Santos. The MLS NEXT Pro Golden Boot leader came close to scoring, but Dos Santos parried his shot away with the effort ultimately bouncing off the post and out.
The ensuing penalty kick shootout was won by Columbus after seven spot kicks. Schulte denied defender Logan Batiste to set up wing back Jordan Knight’s penalty kick winner.
Crew 2 returns to Historic Crew Stadium on Sunday, Sept. 18 to finish out their regular season against rivals FC Cincinnati 2. This is the final game of the regular season for the Black & Gold and any result other than a loss will see them finish the year atop the MLS NEXT Pro standings.