The Columbus Crew allowed the first goal three times during the four-game winning streak they carried into Wednesday’s game against the New England Revolution.
In fact, they trailed the Revs 2-0 on Aug. 25 before rallying for a dramatic 4-3 victory in Columbus. So, facing another deficit after Dimitry Imbongo’s 53rd-minute goal was not a sign for the Crew to panic.
Even as they struggled to mount the slightest hint of an attack while playing the sort of discombobulated match befitting their seventh game in 22 days, there was always hope that a comeback was just a kick away.
That vanished in the 74th minute, along with a six-game unbeaten streak, when center back Chad Marshall’s own-goal sealed the Revolution’s 2-0 victory.
The headed ball over goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum punctuated the Crew’s (12-9-6, 42 points) worst performance since losing at Montreal on July 8.
“I don’t know what it was to be honest with you,” Gruenebaum told MLSsoccer.com in a phone interview. “I don’t know what went wrong. We didn’t play a very good game top to bottom.”
Gruenebaum was forced into matching his career of seven saves for the third time this season and his weary teammates were outshot 20-7. The only two threats came in the 87th minute, but the Crew were denied by goalkeeper Matt Reis.
“It was one of those games nothing clicked for whatever reason,” midfielder Eddie Gaven told the media after the game.
The insurance goal resulted from a flick by Revs’ midfielder Chris Tierney that put Gruenebaum and Marshall into a collision course near the top left of the penalty area.
“I called for it a couple of times early,” Gruenebaum said. “I was just trying to time it right so it would bounce in the box and I would be there; then I see Chad right on top of it. We were both focusing on the ball.”
Marshall knocked the ball past the reach of Gruenebaum and he was unable to corral it before crossing the goal line.
“Possibly I need to be more of a voice,” Gruenebaum said. “He said he didn’t hear me. It’s on me ultimately. I have no problem taking the fall for that.”
While he kept the match close coach Robert Warzycha knew he witnessed a performance that was not in keeping with a team that had lost only once in 10 games.
“Overall we did not play our best game,” he told MLSsoccer.com by phone. “That’s why we got down [a goal] and we’re never able to get it back.”