Building up to Saturday’s match at Portland, there was a lot of talk about the revamped Crew backline, about two possession sides dueling in the hostile confines of Providence Park and about the Crew trying to get back on track offensively.
MLS is a league known and renowned for its parity. This is a league where any type of result can happen on any given night. Pregame storylines can be erased in a heartbeat. Remember New York 4 - Chicago 5? How about Philadelphia 3 - New England 5, or even Houston 2 - Real Salt Lake 5?
Now we have Portland 3 - Columbus 3 -- and that’s just over the last eight days of MLS play.
The Black & Gold were part of a wild match tonight, and although they took a circuitous route to get there, some of the lingering pregame questions were answered. Columbus snapped its goalless streak with a bang, a beautiful Federico Higuain chip was the first of three team tallies on the evening, while the backline replacements of Chad Barson and Tyson Wahl held their own, despite what the scoreline says.
In the end, however, the Crew had to settle for one point instead of the three it felt it deserved after playing about 55 minutes against a 10-man side. Given the pregame questions, the fact that Crew players and staff are disappointed that they didn’t get three points speaks volumes about the gutsy road performance the team put on tonight, particularly in the first half, where it would have been easy to back down after Portland's fifth-minute opening goal.
“I think we could have managed the game better, plain and simple,” said Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter. “If you look at their goals, I didn’t think we did well defending, and that wasn’t typical for the whole match. I think we actually defended well in the match, but in those certain cases, it wasn’t good enough.
“It’s part of that learning experience, and to come here and score three goals is certainly good. We’re happy with that, and we’re happy with the way we played at times.”
That’s the thing about a 3-3 draw -- it’s impossible to arrive at one without ups and downs, without moments of brilliance and moments you wish you could have back. The 10-man aspect of the result makes it hard to swallow for Columbus, but in the end, consider that the Crew scored three goals, came back from a 0-1 deficit in an incredibly difficult place to play and earned a road point in a match where it had to replace 50% of its backline.
“Crazy first half, with the red card and the [penalty kick] late in the half,” said Ethan Finlay, whose first career MLS goal was Columbus’ third of the evening. “Portland made some adjustments as the game started off in the second half. It was unfortunate that we didn’t score earlier in the half to push it to 3-1. The last 10 minutes kind of speaks for itself with how hectic it went back and forth, with about three goals there.
“I think we’re unfortunate to not come out of here with a result tonight, being a man up for as long as were, but there’s a lot of good things that came out of tonight, and we look forward to moving on to Chicago next week.”
“We’re disappointed that we didn’t come out of here with three points,” added Barson. “We were up a man, and we should have come out of this game with three points instead of a tie.”
Finlay isn’t wrong. Neither is Barson, or any Columbus player disappointed with the result. The team knows it should have gotten three points against a good team, on the road, after being down one, and with an all-new backline. Given those constraints, one point isn't bad, and now the team returns home hungrier than ever to face Chicago next weekend, anxious to get the three points it wanted tonight.
And that's the right attitude to have.