COLUMBUS, Ohio- Facing a Sporting Kansas City team so depleted by injury that they couldn’t field a full 18 players, Columbus Crew SC were hoping to get their first win in their last five games. Instead, injuries struck Columbus earlier and it was Kansas City that came away the victors 1-0, their first road win in the 2019 season.
The hard times started early for Columbus, as new signing David Accam went down in the 18th minute with an apparent hamstring injury. The winger was just starting to find his form after scoring in two consecutive US Open Cup games. The early injury forced a substitution at a position the Crew have struggled to find production from this year. Despite that, Columbus did create a multitude of chances, but simply couldn’t finish. Patrick Mullins, starting in place of Gyasi Zardes who is with the US National team, couldn’t finish a sitter from a corner kick early on. SKC keeper Tim Melia blocked many of the better looks from Columbus, who nonetheless went into the locker room at half feeling like the better team.
“We gotta score in the first half,” Crew head coach Caleb Porter said, “I counted five or six clear chances, a few of them are tap ins. We gotta score…if you don’t score, you put pressure on yourselves.”
That would change quickly in the second half. Felipe Gutierrez scored on an opener header in the 48th minute after Gerso did an incredible job keeping a ball inbounds on the end line, megging Luis Argudo before sending in a picture perfect cross for the strike. From then on, Kansas City was content to put men behind the ball and keep the Crew attack from creating the opportunities they did in the first half. Columbus has not won a game this year after conceding first, and only gotten one draw in such a situation.
”It’s mental,” Crew defender Waylon Francis said, “It’s something mental that we have to work every single day in training that every time they score we have to figure out a way how to fix the problems. I think that’s our mental issue we have.”
The comeback attempt got much harder in the 74th minute when Harrison Afful received a red card for denying on obvious goal scoring opportunity. He fouled Gerso at the top of the Columbus box on a breakaway. There was little argument from the team over the call, and none from Afful himself. It was the first red card for the Crew this season, and the third red card of Afful’s MLS career.
Columbus couldn’t break Melia with 11 men, and it didn’t get any easier with 10. One goal proved enough for Kansas City. The Crew have just one win in their last 11 games and only four points. They desperately need the return of their international players. But with the Gold Cup still in full swing, it will be some time before the cavalry arrives for Columbus. “Of course [we’re going to look for new players]. There’s no mystery there. When your not winning games, you have to improve the team. I like that group there in the locker room, their good guys, but…when your not winning games, you’re going to find out how you can win games,” Porter said.