Columbus has still never lost a home opener. Brian Carroll returned from injury, but even that wasn't enough to help the Union, as they lost 2-1 to the Crew in Columbus off of a brace by Bernardo Anor.
Jack McInerney was almost gifted a goal at 6 minutes off of a sloppy pass by the Crew defense, but the Columbus center backs did well to pinch it off. Vincent Noguiera had a good chance that was stuffed by Columbus goalkeeper Steve Clark at 13 minutes. Jack McInerney went off with an injury at 16'. MacMath and Jairo Arrieta collided at 18 minutes, with MacMath taking the worst of the collision. It took him a couple of minutes to get back up.
Columbus opened the scoring in the twenty-third minute when Bernardo Anor beat his man and headed a beautiful corner kick from Federico Higuain past Zac MacMath. The Union were not able to get the ball out of their own zone for the next five minutes until Maurice Edu found McInerney, who hesitated while one-on-one with the keeper in the box, allowing the defense to get back and cover. Fabinho sent a beautiful ball across the goal mouth to Sebastien Le Toux, who saw his flick go just wide at 33 minutes. Cristian Maidana bent one just around the goal at 40 minutes in. Bernardo Anor got his second of the match with an absolute golazo from 35 yards out in the stoppage time of the first half.
Jairo Arrieta got the second half off to a good start and shoots one just wide of the net at 46 minutes. Bernardo Anor went for the hat trick but he shot wide of the net on a Columbus break at 48 minutes. Leo Fernandes came on for Cristian Maidana at 54 minutes. Arrieta had a good chance off of some bad defending by Aaron Wheeler, but Wheeler made up for it with a good defensive header to avert the crisis. Federico Higuaín had an opportunity one-on-one with MacMath, but MacMath easily picked up the curling shot at 58 minutes in. Leo Fernandes had a shot on goal at 60 minutes that just dribbled wide.
The Union's lone goal came off of a great cross in by Ray Gaddis, which was headed out by a Crew defender straight to an unmarked Le Toux, who crossed it to Leo Fernandes who headed it in to draw the Union within one at 62 minutes. Just a minute later, Michael Parkhurst made a rare defensive error and left the ball to Sebastien Le Toux, who crossed it to Jack McInerney who forced Clark to make a tremendous save.
Columbus subbed out Jairo Arrieta for Dominic Oduro at 66 minutes. Just a minute later, Brian Carroll found Cristian Maidana, who rifled one across the goal mouth to McInerney who just pushed it wide. Fernandes almost equalized it at 68 minutes when he had a great cross come his way but just couldn't make contact. Fernandes then passed one to Edu at 70 minutes who shot right into a defender. The fortunate deflection found Fernandes who shot immediately right into Clark's chest, and then the Columbus defense had to fight off Fernandes who was still fighting for the ball. At 71 minutes, the usual McInerney for Antoine Hoppenot substitution was made. Fabinho picked up a yellow card at 73 minutes for what looked to be a well executed suplex. On the ensuing free kick, it was chaos in the Union eighteen yard box as the ball was forced in and shots were taken into the Union defense's legs, but nothing came of it. Oduro then found himself all alone off of a beautiful ball from Jimenez, but he just missed it.
Cristian Maidana found himself all alone on the receiving end on a beautiful cross from Gaddis, but he just skied it over the goal. Fernandes put a header on goal at 78 minutes but it was eaten up by the keeper. Justin Meram came on for Bernardo Anor at 79 minutes, and Danny Cruz made his regular switch with Sebastien Le Toux at 80 minutes in. Federico Higuaín got a yellow card at 81 minutes for playing the ball well after the whistle. An awful back pass by Amobi Okugo with a sprinting Dominic Oduro bearing down on goal made MacMath come way out to clear the ball at 84 minutes. Oduro sent a cross that made MacMath come out and then freeze, leaving Hector Jimenez all alone but he could not make contact to the ball. Hoppenot made a nice run toward goal but his cross just missed Aaron Wheeler's outstretched leg at 88 minutes. MacMath came out to make a great save on Higuaín at the 90 minute mark. That would be Higuaín's last play, as we was subbed off for Chad Barson at 91 minutes, just before the match was called.
Issues: Defending set-pieces has been the Union's Achilles' Heel pretty much since the club's inception, and it doesn't seem like anything has changed. I don't believe the club will ever be a serious contender unless they can consistently defend set pieces. This has to become a priority for John Hackworth and the team.
Le Toux's first touch let him down often. More than once he wound up hoofing a ball down the field when a more deft touch was needed.
Columbus is a dirty team. Lots of pushing and shoving from the Crew. That being said, there was a lot of embellishing by the Union, most of which went unnoticed by the referee.
Speaking of the referee, the regulars were back this weekend thanks to MLS and PRO working out their differences. Ted Unkel and crew did a good job, letting the teams play and only getting involved when necessary.
The Union's passing was very sloppy at times. On more than one occasion a lazy pass toward a teammate would wind up being picked up by a Crew player.
More than once Jack Mac found himself all alone in the eighteen with no help whatsoever. No blue jerseys to draw the defense or give an outlet to, and thus only one goal.
Leo Fernandes played an excellent game. He was by far the Union's most dangerous player. 2014 Fernandes could be the 2012 Hoppenot - a supersub who just goes in and makes life miserable for the opponents.
Edu and Noguiera are clearly not on the same page. Too often the two men occupied the same space on the pitch, with Noguiera seeming to be the one getting in the way.
The Union sorely miss Sheanon Williams' throw-ins. Fabinho's wounded ducks just aren't cutting it.
Next Up: The Union host Montreal Impact next Saturday at 4:00 PM. Columbus travels to Seattle to face the Clint Dempsey Experience minus Deuce, who is serving a two-game suspension for punching Toronto FC's Mark Bloom in the juevos during Seattle's opener.