Chester, PA - The Columbus Crew kicked off the teams’ 2023 Major League Soccer campaign on the road against the reigning Eastern Conference Champions, the Philadelphia Union. Head coach Wilfried Nancy went with a young starting lineup, against a power-stacked Union side under Jim Curtin. Although the game started off fine, Columbus came away with a 4-1 loss.
The match saw the visiting side go up 1-0 in the first half before conceding a penalty kick equalizer. This was followed by a second half that was controlled by Philadelphia, as well as the controversial calls.
While the Crew invited pressure in the first few minutes of the game, the ability to escape and attack with numbers is something that Black & Gold had not been able to do in the past.
Columbus had a good chance at the start of the game with Lucas Zelarayan slotting a pass through the penalty area, but it was easily collected by Union keeper Andre Blake.
Philadelphia had a chance of their own minutes later, almost catching the Crew flat footed on a corner kick. Of the few chances that the home side had in the first half, the attack played toward the near post. However, the Black & Gold were able to clear the pressure and start out an attack.
A plethora of fouls against the Union gave Columbus the momentum they needed as the first half progressed on.
Philadelphia could've had the breakthrough in the 26th minute when Alejandro Bedoya gave Julian Carranza the opportunity, but the ensuing shot hit the post. However, the initial ball to Bedoya was deemed offside, and Columbus was saved by the flag.
Minutes later, the Crew found the opener when forward Cucho Hernandez served a pass toward the feet of midfielder Alexandru Matan, but Union Jacob Glesnas got a piece of the ball and put it past Blake, making it an own goal.
Just as the first half was coming to an end, the Union was given a golden ticket as defender Mo Farsi was whistled for a handball inside the penalty area. Daniel Gazdag converted the spot kick to level the score 1-1 at the end of the first half.
The Union started the second half strong, putting the Black & Gold under pressure and forcing the away side to make errors in their own defensive half. Those would pay off when Carranza was able to put the ball past Crew keeper Patrick Schulte, giving the home side a 2-1 advantage in the 51st minute.
A rare call seen in MLS saw Hernandez receive a yellow card for simulation.
The Union was able to make their lead bigger in the 71st minute when defender Milos Degenek was whistled for a handball inside the penalty area. Gazdag was able to force Schulte the wrong way again, giving him his second on the day.
Just minutes later, Carranza notches his brace on the evening, when his shot got past Schulte in the 80th minute to make the score 4-1.
With a new era starting in Columbus under head coach Wilfried Nancy, the Crew was a new and revitalized team. With the visitors practically exacting the style of play Nancy has intact on the squad, the Black & Gold had multiple instances in which after giving the ball away, they were right back on the attack.
Victim to penalties
Columbus has been no stranger to having penalties called against them. However, a pair of questionable handballs saw the Black & Gold give up two penalty kick goals, both to Daniel Gazdag.
The Crew is at home next week, bringing in an MLS original in D.C. United. Kickoff is slated for 7:30 p.m. ET and can be seen on Apple TV +.