Whew, these late game winners are doing nothing for my heart. To say the Columbus Crew’s game against the Philadelphia Union was nervy or filled with tension doesn’t really cover it, I think. I mean, come on …. it’s playoffs! And yes, I will continue to talk about the craziness of the games leading up to the playoffs until we’re actually IN the post season.
We’re in familiar territory here, as Crew fans. Columbus is sitting on the outside, looking in on a tight race. Everything the players, the staff, the TEAM does in the next few weeks determines the fate of their MLS Cup dreams. And let’s be a little honest with ourselves; in a race this tight, the Crew have been pretty lucky thus far.
Saturday’s match up is a prime example. I mean, not only did the Crew snatch a win in the dying minutes of the match – a feat they are getting particularly fond of and my heart is not, by the way – but they did it on a goal that is making a few of us scratch our heads. Even head coach Robert Warzycha teased the media about his thoughts on the goal.
If you didn’t see it, let me set the stage for you. It’s the 87th minute of the match and the Crew – after having a strong first half where they were up 2-0 – are now looking at their playoff spot slipping away as the seconds tick by. Danny Cruz smashed home a penalty earlier to bring one back for the Union and just 60 seconds ago Philly sub Jack McInerney shocked the Crew with a leveler.
Time was running out and the only thing to do at this point is push and pray for a miracle. With possession, in front of the Union’s goal, Josh Williams pushes forward and cuts in. He’s got three guys in front of goal, heavily covered by the Union defense, so he slots it back to Milovan Mirosevic. From this point, it’s a cluster – a down right mess in the box. Crew players are trying to slot it through and Union players are trying to kick it back.
Williams nicks it and suddenly it’s at Mirosevic’s feet again and he’s in front of goal with only the keeper to beat. And he decisively knocks it past the keeper.
In the heat of the moment, I was convinced of the certainty of the strike. That the goal was completely on sides. But then I watched as they immediately started the replays.
Yeah …. Duncan Oughton was right on his call on that – Milo was completely off sides when Josh smacked that ball back to him. But for some reason, to the chagrin of the Philadelphia Union, the ref didn’t budge and the goal stuck. The Crew would hold on 3-2 and get a crucial three points to keep up with Houston – who also won on the weekend – and D.C. United – who only came out with a tie.
So what’s the point? Luck goes a long way? Eh, yes, but I don’t think that’s the point. Milo said it best in his post-game interview.
I love the Crew; have for many years. But that loyalty and love cannot disguise the fact that the team is in a bit of trouble here. Nervy, last-minute wins will not get the black and gold into the playoffs or even close to the finals. Is the team capable of it? Yes, I have no doubt in my mind. But there is no way that can be done if the defense allows teams to pick them a part.
Jairo Arrieta gave the team a brace in the first half. An effin’ brace! Blowing a 2-nil lead is not good enough. Especially when they will be taking on Eastern Conference leaders Sporting Kansas City on Sunday. It’ll help having the home advantage. However, I won’t be at ease until I see the defense tighten up. The Columbus Crew still have a light on their playoff hopes. But they need more than their end-of-the-match ol’ fashioned luck to get them there.
Photo courtesy of Columbus Crew’s Facebook page.