Sep 29, 2018; Columbus, OH, USA; Columbus Crew SC defender Lalas Abubakar (17) attempts to head the ball against Philadelphia Union forward Cory Burke (19) as Columbus Crew SC defender Milton Valenzuela (19) defends in the first half at MAPFRE Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
COLUMBUS — Columbus Crew SC played the Philadelphia Union to a 0-0 draw in a matchup that boasted playoff potential in the days leading up to the game.
The Union are just one point behind the Crew for fourth place in the Eastern Conference, which is the difference between hosting or traveling for the first playoff game. That margin remains the same after the game tonight.
Philadelphia didn’t register a shot on goal despite outshooting Columbus 13-11. Crew SC only managed two shots on goal themselves, and those didn’t come until the dying minutes of the game.
The biggest chance for a goal was in the 36th minute. Corey Burke contested a ball in the air against centerback Lalas Abubakar. Burke extended his arm into the neck of Abubakar, who fell to the ground. No foul was called, and Burke crossed the ball into the box. Jonathan Mensah, attempting to deflect the cross, sent the ball into his own net.
As soon as the play was over, Crew SC coaches and players argued with the center official, Drew Fischer, to review the play and call a foul on Burke. Fischer did go to video review, and after looking at the play again, concurred with the opinion of the Columbus players.
“Lalas is a big strong boy. He doesn’t go down easy,” captain Wil Trapp said, “it looked like Burke extended his arm and pushed him down. That was our argument.”
In a statement made after the match, Fischer said Burke indeed extended his arm and pushed Abubakar, giving him an advantage on the ball, and therefore negating the goal.
“It was a foul,” Crew SC head coach Gregg Berhalter said, “I am [happy the system worked], and I’m not. In my opinion, the communication can happen much earlier and the flag can go up much earlier. Just call the foul. Just call the foul. But the way it actually played out was great. It was great to see them using VAR in the way it is meant to be used. I think on plays like that, you’re thankful they have VAR, because if not it would’ve been a goal.”
Because D.C. United beat the Montreal Impact earlier in the evening, the Crew would have clinched a spot in the MLS playoffs had they won. Despite the fact that a postseason spot was on the table, it wasn’t a topic of discussion among the players this week.
“We weren’t completely dependent upon our result, so we didn’t even focus on [clinching the playoffs],” Berhalter said, “our focus is on trying to get the third spot.”
Said keeper Zack Steffen: “Honestly, I heard that for the first time yesterday, that we could clinch if we won. I think it’s weird that we didn’t really talk about it at all this week. I think maybe if we talked about it we’d have a little more motivation to go out there and put the game to bed.”
Columbus will now look to clinch a playoff berth next week when the team travels to face the Montreal Impact.