What should have been a feel-good result for the Crew, especially playing with a man advantage for 61 minutes, instead was a numbing 2-1 loss to Chicago on Saturday at Toyota Park to snap a six-game unbeaten streak.
“We are kicking ourselves,” defender Julius James said. “The stars aligned. It was all set. All we had to do was score some goals. We were up a man. That’s the situation you want.”
The Crew (5-5-4) had allowed only four goals in seven road matches but found themselves trailing 2-0 by the 26th minute following goals by Marco Pappa (second minute) and Dominic Oduro.
“We lost the ball in bad areas,” James said. “When you do that, fast teams, like tonight, come at us.”
With a little more luck, Chicago could have put five on the board by the break even with Gonzalo Segares being sent off in the 29th minute for his studs up tackle on Kevan George.
The Crew gained life when Tony Tchani scored in the 36th minute. It was his third goal in 52 career games but the first against a team other than Columbus. He scored against the Crew while playing for New York on 2010 and last year with Toronto FC.
“As soon as we scored we knew we had a chance to get points,” defender Josh Williams said.
Tchani also had a quality chance on a rebound try early in the second half but his shot was one of many that were well off target, further reinforcing why the Crew is averaging just one goal per game.
The Crew’s best chance to get an equalizer came in the 57th minute when Williams’ hard luck continued in search of his first goal. His header off a corner kick by Nemanja Vukovic resulted in a reflex hand save by Sean Johnson, the fifth time this season Williams has had an attempt saved off the line or hit the crossbar.
Otherwise, the Crew lacked cohesion in the attack.
“It seemed like we didn’t really create too many chances,” midfielder Chris Birchall said. “For the amount of possession we had we didn’t cause too much of a threat.
“Frustration is the main thing, especially playing a team down so long. We did get one (goal) back but we really should have scored a couple of goals in the second half.”
Craig Merz covers the Columbus Crew for MLSsoccer.com