Despite the early fifth minute goal by Federico Higuain, the warning sirens should have been blaring. The match last night began as an extremely wide open affair with shots coming from all directions and neither team playing much defense. After the first few thrusts forward by both teams, the score was still level until Justin Meram danced around three Orlando defenders to slot Higuain home. Higuain finished off a tidy move by Crew SC by slotting home his shot.
Following the opening goal, Orlando appeared to settle into the match but someone forgot to tell Columbus it wasn’t an open field. I say that because the effort level not just from the two center backs, but also the entire team defensively was as if they were just kicking around a ball for fun. Sure, the attacking was up to par and a plethora of chances were created but the entire squad lacked a defensive commitment.
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From the opening kick, something seemed off. The normal dominant ball possession and crisp passing that has been a staple of the Crew SC brand was notably missing. Wil Trapp and Michael Parkhurst, usually very clean in their possession turned the ball over in dangerous positions all night. They were not alone as the entire team struggled with inopportune giveaways.
After a few early missed opportunities, Cyle Larin latched onto a Corey Ashe cross to score Orlando’s first goal from only a few yards out in the eighteenth minute. In what become a theme of the night, Larin found space just between Parkhurst and Tyson Wahl.
The match would remain at 1-1 until the thirty-eighth minute when Darwin Ceren outhustled the entire Columbus midfield on the counter to blast home the go-ahead goal. The replay shows that the Columbus midfield, Tony Tchani in particular completely took this play off, lackadaisically walking back as Ceren drives past him for the goal.
The half would end with Orlando up 2-1, offering some hope that Columbus could turn the tables in the second half. Despite being down, Columbus could boast having the most potent attacks in the league and they were able to generate seven shots in the first half.
Well, the second half would be more poor defensive work as Columbus repeatedly got beaten in transition and looked like a team that didn’t want to play. Larin would score in the fifty-third minute from a cross, again by Ashe. On the play, Wahl gets caught watching the ball and allows Larin to waltz in unmarked to shoot from around the penalty spot. Blame needs to be cast on Wahl but also on Barson for allowing such easy service. In fact all match the left side of the Orlando attack was able to play in dangerous crosses.
Now with the score at 3-1 the match was beginning to look dire for Columbus, but Orlando was still not done attacking. Orlando would continue the onslaught with two more goals, both from set pieces. The first, Aurelien Collin was able to find space relatively easy to head home a simple ball directly from the corner kick. The second was again a corner that was initially cleared, but on the lofted ball back into the box Columbus lost their marks and allowed Cristian Higuita to head home the final nail. The score would be 5-1 at this point and the Crew SC would get a late consolation from a Collin own goal.
Columbus fans might point to an early no call on a corner that should have resulted in a Crew SC PK as a moment that changed the match. This moment has no bearing on the final result. The fact is, Columbus didn’t care to put in the defensive effort needed to compete last night. Many of the defensive shortcomings this season could be blamed on lack of personal or the system, but no system can make up for players not giving effort and that is what we saw. Things have to change next week or Columbus will quickly fall out of the playoff race.