Trotting out what was for an already bad Union side a weak line-up against a team in contention for a playoff spot, the Union were blasted to smithereens in Columbus, Ohio where the Crew took home all three points in a 4-1 blowout as decisive as the scoreline indicates. It was ugly, atrocious soccer from the Philadelphia side, and the game was never remotely competitive. The lone bright spot, a scintillating headed goal by youngster Eric Ayuk, occurred in the second half with the match already far out of realistic reach for the Union.
As a result of Fernando Aristeguieta not being fit to make Jim Curtin's 18-man roster, Sheanon Williams being bad, and Fabinho being a human body on the team with previous experience in the backfield, Curtin's starting XI was a laughably weak one. John McCarthy continued to start at goalkeeper, Sheanon Williams was benched with Ray Gaddis slotting into the right back spot and Fabinho took over the vacated left back position. Steven Vitoria and Maurice Edu reunited in central defense while Michael Lahoud and Brian Carroll played defensive midfield, Andrew Wenger and Sebastien Le Toux placed along the wings, and C.J. Sapong up top as the lone striker.
The Crew's first goal was the result of an entire defensive meltdown. Following an awful distribution from McCarthy that turned the ball over, Ethan Finlay was able to find Kei Kamara left alone in the box because Fabinho had over-committed pushing forward. McCarthy was way too aggressive in pursuing the ball upon its arrival to Kamara, and the Columbus striker had an easy time putting the Crew up 1-0.
And yet, the night would get worse for Fabinho. Waylon Francis sent up a perfect cross over the heads of at least three Union players and right onto the foot of Finlay. And with Fabinho in charge of marking Finlay, Finlay had all too easy of a time slotting the ball directly underneath the body of McCarthy to give the Crew a would-be insurmountable 2-goal lead.
And yet, the night would get worse for McCarthy. The well-meaning but woefully out of his depth goalkeeper had been an M'Bolhi-esque sieve in net with the distribution skills of an adorable soccer-playing chimpanzee, but to his credit he had always avoided the Robert Green-style howler. Until tonight, anyways. After Justin Meram fought off Maurice Edu multiple times, he continued his run into the box where he shot the ball right at McCarthy. Having believed himself to be Patrick Roy for a split second at the worst possible time, McCarthy dropped to his knees in a butterfly-like stance as Meram shot the ball, and the ball bounced off McCarthy into the net while McCarthy rolled over helplessly flailing at the ball. From a neutral perspective, it was a hilarious bout of incompetence. From the Union perspective, it was just depressing. 3-0 Crew before half time.
The second half became a rather slow affair, with the Crew thoroughly content to be up 3-0 against a bad team and the Union unable and unwilling to provide any real spark of offense. The only thing saving the 2nd half from being a complete disaster was Curtin taking off Wenger for Eric Ayuk at the start of the second half, and Ayuk certainly became the Union's standout player in the 2nd half.
Though Ayuk had what he initially believed to be his first career MLS goal taken away because the ball hit Zach Pfeffer in the ass before it crossed the line, Ayuk would make sure he got his redemption by scoring a goal where the probability of the ball bouncing off any ass before crossing the line was zero percent. Sapong sent in a gorgeous cross from the left that Ayuk was able to get a head onto, and Ayuk made sure he headed it on a rope past a helplessly diving Steve Clark. The keeper was never getting to it, and the Union had a consolation goal. Ayuk then proceeded to celebrate by back-flipping five times much to the consternation of some Union fans and the confusion of many Crew fans who likely found themselves looking at the scoreboard and scratching their heads. But no matter, in a season wholly devoid of fun, Ayuk has been a bright spot and his awesome back-flipping provided a rare moment of joy and unbridled happiness in a season where all the Union and their fans have known is sadness, anger, and frustration.
But the night couldn't end on that high note. Nope. On a night this crappy, the Crew would be the ones who had the last laugh with yet another goal. And once again, Fabinho got beat. Receiving a long pass from Clark, Kamara beat Ethan White in the air to latch onto a ball which he instantly passed to Finlay in the box. Racing against Fabinho, Finlay easily beat him and got off a shot past McCarthy into the net to put the Crew up 4-1. 17 minutes later, the game mercifully ended, and the Union went home with their tails tucked between their legs defeated 4-1.
Perhaps it will get better as the Union's next match is an afternoon home game against a similarly struggling albeit way more talented Toronto FC side. But immediately following that the Union will spend the next month-and-a-half playing a series of teams all of whom figure to at the very least be in the playoff picture by the end of the season, and many of whom may actually contend for the MLS Cup. It'd be funny if it didn't hurt so badly.