Columbus Crew SC’s biggest foe in the first few weeks of the season has not been TFC or late goals or stoppage time, it has been the MLS Schedule makers. To start a season with two games, than a bye week for absolutely no reason at all, in between home games at MAPFRE Stadium is not exactly a beautiful start. But what would follow that series of games makes it look like sunshine and butterflies.
Columbus played right through the international break and then had ten days off before a midweek game in Vancouver. Midweek games are the pits to begin with, but a midweek game on the West Coast, about 2,500 miles away from home that starts at 10pm Eastern Time is the absolute worst. As if that was not bad enough Columbus Crew SC had to travel for a Saturday afternoon game… in New England. It was as if the schedule makers thought of the worst possible schedule and forgot to change it before pressing Go. A Saturday afternoon game on the west coast would not have been much to complain about, but to fly all the way across the country after a late game on Wednesday is absolutely absurd. I do not have to do any research to know that this is the worst schedule that any team in MLS has ever had to play. Needless to say Columbus Crew SC had an uphill battle to even 1 point on this stretch, I don’t think anyone would blame them if they came back home with less.
In the first half at Vancouver, Columbus played like a team that wanted to steal three points from the best team in the league. Playing a different lineup to rest some of the usual starters and to replace suspended Higuain did not seem to matter much to the black and yellow. Kei Kamara put Crew SC in front early when he capitalized on the inability for the Whitecaps’ to clear the ball from Finlay in the box. The lead did not last long as very poor defense from Columbus on a throw in allowed Octavio Rivero to put one past Clark to equalize.
After Kei Kamara scored his second of the night to put the Crew back on top just five minutes after the halfway point the game shifted to full control in favor of the Whitecaps. Darren Mattocks took complete control and had about 10 opportunities to tie the game (which he eventually did in the 64th minute) and then take the lead. Steve Clark saved numerous attempts and ended the night with six saves and the tie.
One point on the road in Vancouver without the full starting lineup in on a Wednesday night feels more like nine points to the team, although they did not have much time to celebrate it as they had an 8 hour plane ride to Boston waiting for them in a few hours.
The second match of the weekend was nothing to write home about from either side as it ended in a lovely 0-0 draw. Columbus had 8 shots but a grand total of zero shots on goal. The best chance for Columbus came late in the match when Meram looped the ball over the defense to the chest of Aaron Schoenfeld who was in perfect position to secure three points if only he could have put a boot on the ball right as Shuttleworth charged to make the save.
Two points and about 7,000 miles later, Columbus Crew SC return home to play host to Orlando City at MAPFRE Stadium on Saturday.
This Weeks grades:
Federico Higuain: Does not play in Vancouver because of a red card for “unsporting behavior” the previous week and gets a yellow card for the exact reason again on Saturday against the Revolution. Yes, he did have some fantastic flicks of the ball that led to great opportunities but those don’t blind from the reality that he needs to pipe down and stop thinking he can complain to the refs like he is Ronaldo. Grade: D
Field Turf: The Game is meant to be played on grass, end of story. The turf used in Vancouver looks more like a carpet on concrete to the TV viewing eye. Grade: F
Steve Clark: Nobody expected even a point from this road trip and Clark is the sole reason that Columbus earned a point in each match. The onslaught that he saw in the second half vs Vancouver will be remembered in the later portions of the season when the standings are tight. Grade: A
MLS Schedule Makers: If I Have not made myself clear already, the combination of a Wednesday night game on the west coast followed by a Saturday afternoon game on the east coast is absolutely ridiculous. The two freedom fingers solute is warranted towards MLS for this insanity (for the number of points per game of course). Grade: Go Directly to Jail, do not pass Go, Do not Collect $200