COLUMBUS – For the struggling Crew, even a golden moment was tarnished around the edges.
Yes, goalkeeper William Hesmer scored the goal of a lifetime in the waning minutes to salvage a 2-2 tie at Toronto FC on Saturday, but the draw extended Columbus' winless streak to six (0-3-3), and prevented them from taking over first in the Eastern Conference heading into the season finale.
“We showed character coming back, but we should have never been in that situation,” midfielder/defender Adam Moffat said.
When Chad Marshall scored in the 15th minute, the Crew took their first lead in six games. The prosperity would be short-lived, however, as only 14 minutes, Maicon Santos tied it for Toronto and Jacob Peterson would put the Reds ahead in the 38th minute.
[inline_node:320635]“It was really disappointing to go one up and lose the lead,” Moffat said. “We were a little bit sloppy.”
Hesmer came to the rescue with his well-placed shot from eight yards out in the 92nd minute after Eddie Gaven’s corner kick was headed back to Hesmer by Marshall.
“We would have liked to have gotten three points, but to come back and get a point out of it that way was pretty cool,” Marshall said. “We limited their chances. They didn’t have much, but unfortunately we gave up two goals again. We need to shore that up.”
While going 3-5-4 in the past 12 matches, the Crew have been outscored 20-12. Columbus have given up at least two goals in four of the past five games. Still, the team was relaxed at Monday’s practice because of Hesmer’s improbable score.
“It maybe would have been a grim, pretty upset and frustrated mindset in the locker room and everyone would have been grinding that much more,” said Hesmer of the atmosphere in training should the Crew had lost. Instead, the 'keeper said everyone was joking and light-hearted.
Robert Warzycha certainly didn’t want to take everyone to Trinidad for Thursday’s CONCACAF Champions League for the Group B finale against Joe Public, but feels he has no choice. Only defenders Frankie Hejduk (illness) and Danny O'Rourke (back) will stay home.
The team is leaving early Tuesday, one day earlier than the previous two CCL away matches, because it’s nearly a 14-hour trip.
That means the Crew could have already clinched one of the two quarterfinal spots by the time they get settled at the hotel if hosts Santos Laguna beat Municipal as expected on Tuesday.
If that happens, Warzycha would consider sending some of his starters home Wednesday to rest for Sunday’s last regular-season game against Philadelphia in a match that could decide the conference.
A Municipal win or a tie muddies the picture, and the only guaranteed path to the knockout stage for the Crew would be to beat Joe Public.
“We don’t know what’s going to happen,” Warzycha said. “That’s why you have to take everybody [seriously] and be prepared. I don’t think it would be wise to leave some guys behind in case we need them.”