Saturday night’s 1-1 draw against the New England Revolution was a mixed bag for the Columbus Crew. On the one hand, the Black & Gold looked out of sorts in the first half, struggling in possession and missing the attacking flair that had been so prevalent in their previous three matches while facing a top team in the Eastern Conference. On the other, the Crew showed an immense amount of resilience and determination to stay in the game and earn a point against a strong, albeit one-man-down, New England side.
Columbus’ hero on the night was Academy product midfielder Sean Zawadzki, whose 98th minute stoppage time header ensured that the Crew’s now four-game unbeaten streak remained intact. Zawadzki only entered the match as a substitute in the 92nd minute, making the most of his short time on the pitch, but said his perspective from the bench allowed him to see the qualities of the Revolution.
“They made it really difficult. They kind of have a man-marking system that makes it difficult. We’re going to need to kind of be on the ball and dictate the way we have throughout the season so far,” Zawadzki said. “I give them credit for that but I’m really proud of the guys. We found a way to get through.”
Although his side was not able to earn a fourth-straight win, head coach Wilfried Nancy praised his players for adjusting in the second half and lauded their strong mentality to earn a draw in the dying moments against tough opposition.
“We faced a good team, so we struggled a bit. In the first half, we were not able to do what we want to do because the opposition was good. After that, in the second half, we adjusted a bit and we had better opportunities to attack the box and to be more dangerous. And after that, yeah, the red card and this is not easy to play against a team play with 10 men. It seems to be easy, but this is not easy, because they blocked the middle all the time,” Nancy said. “So I was pretty happy with the spirit of my players to fight until the end. This is something that I congratulated them because we didn’t win, yes, but they found a way to come back. And for me, it’s been a good exercise for my players to live this moment.”
An unfortunate own goal from defender Milos Degenek opened the scoring for New England in the 58th minute of the match. Degenek spoke openly after the match about how the goal transpired, admitting he could have done more to prevent it. But moments like this are part of the sport.
“It was a pretty decent counter attack from them. Quite an uncomfortable cross came in which, in all honesty, and being honest and realistic, I should clear that, I should get that away. I misjudged the ball a little bit. I should have dealt with it a bit better. I sent the boys back a bit with that one obviously losing at home 1-0 to a very good New England side. But I think it happens in football,” Degenek said. “Things like that happen to not just me but I think they happen to the best players in the world, and that is football. It’s the part about football that no one enjoys, these little setbacks, these little bad things that happen, but it’s how you deal with it. You get on with it. It’s not the end of the world.
Goalkeeper Patrick Schulte was kept busy against New England, putting in another strong performance as he recorded eight saves. Schulte was named to the bench of the MLS Team of the Matchday after his performance against New England. Nancy was impressed with the 21-year-old’s performance but hopes all his players improve on their tactics going forward.
“He made really good saves. Good for him, good for the team, because he kept us in the game,” Nancy said. “Good for him but after that, he knows that like everyone, we decided to do something to play out from the back, but we were not so good with that. So this is something that we need to improve but good for Patrick and good for the team.”
The Crew hopes to get back in the win column and maintain the unbeaten streak next week. While it would have to come on the road, the Black & Gold face Charlotte FC, a team near the bottom of the Eastern Conference and a side on a four-match winless run.