On Friday night, the Columbus Crew played away to a CF Montréal side on the top half of the standings, looking to avenge th team’s lone loss since Memorial Day. The Black & Golld scored two early second half goals before Luis Diaz received a red card and Montréal scored two late, leading to a 2-2 draw.
Montréal, who’s known for giving up early goals, faced a Columbus side playing with intensity and finding space. Forward Cucho Hernández took two early shots across the face of goal, forcing saves from Montréal goalkeeper James Panetmis.
Part of the build up came from central midfielder Aidan Morris and rookie left back Will Sands. They created turnovers in the midfield and, Morris especially, found pockets to send in short passes.
After 20 minutes, the press of the home side took over the momentum. If not for poor attempts on goal from Montréal, the Crew would head into halftime down. Instead, goalkeeper Eloy Room was in the right place as shots without momentum or movement forced five first half stops.
The backline of captain Jonathan Mensah and Miloš Degenek played well all first half. The Black & Gold had 12 clearances before halftime, with the biggest coming in the first minute of first half stoppage. Montréal midfielder Djordje Mihailovic took shot, with Degenek making the block to send the teams into the locker room at 0-0 despite eight total shots on goal.
Returning from the half, Montréal picked up where the team left off in the first 45 minutes. The Canadian side added three more shots on goal in the first 15 minutes of the final 45.
It was a set piece that turned things around, creating two of the oddest the Black & Gold goals of the season.
The first came in the 66th minute when midfielder Lucas Zelarayán took a short free kick to Morris and then winger Luis Díaz before the ball found fullback Steven Moreira. The Frenchman crossed into the penalty box to a waiting Mensah, who headed the ball into the back corner of the net. That cross ties Moreira with the most fullback assists in a season, seven, with former Columbus defender Waylon Francis in 2015 MLS Cup.
It took less than two minutes for the next Crew goal. Off the Montréal return to play, the Black & Gold won the ball back and winger Derrick Etienne Jr. found Zelarayán at the top of the box. After shooting off the backside of Hernández, Zelarayán shot on the volley, quickly putting Columbus up 2-0.
Montréal is a team that feeds off of being down on the scoreboard and the Crew made it easier for their opponents. In the 74th minute, Díaz and Montréal substitute Kei Kamara locked up, with Díaz kicking the forward from behind. The Costa Rican was initially given a yellow card before referee Lukasz Szpala went to the VAR monitor and gave a red card.
Columbus had to hold onto the lead for 15 minutes, bringing in center back Josh Williams and Artur to try and do just that. Montréal went on the attack.
In the 89th minute, midfielder Victor Wanyama was in the right place at the right time. Matko Miljevic’s shot from the top of the penalty area went off the former Tottenham man’s head and above an outstretched glove by Room.
In the fifth minute of second half stoppage, from the same area as the shot on the first goal, substitute Zachary Brault-Guillard shot a ball low, deflecting off a teammate and past Room, completing the 2-2 comeback.
The Crew entered this game with an impressive one loss in 16, but 13 draws on the season and sitting near the MLS Cup playoff line. Before the match, taking a point away from home, against the second-best team in the Eastern Conference, felt like a good night. After allowing more late magic from the opposing side, the draw feels more like a loss for fans.
Late match deflation
Once again, the Black & Gold, like many teams, gave up late goals to Montréal. The home side entered with 23 points from losing positions and moved that up to 26. That draw clinched a spot in the MLS Cup playoffs for the Canadians.
Columbus has a quick turnaround from Friday’s match. On Tuesday, the Crew plays Inter Miami CF at DRV PNK Stadium. The Black & Gold aim to beat Miami again after squeaking out a 1-0 victory against head coach Gary Neville’s side on Aug. 31.