The Columbus Crew lost the match, the Pioneer Cup and three players for their next match in a forgettable Saturday night in Frisco, Texas.
FC Dallas defeated the Crew 2-0 as the home team avenged a loss in Columbus earlier this season by the same score in the first meeting of the two franchises owned by Hunt Sports Group.
Because the season series and goals were tied and the next tiebreaker (all-time series) is level at 16-16-8, the Pioneer Cup was awarded to FCD because they have scored one more goal (55-54) in the 40 games between the clubs.
“I guess they’ve got to decide who gets it somehow to please the fans,” Crew captain and defender Chad Marshall said. “If that’s what they came up with, that’s fine — some weird technicality.”
The Pioneer Cup margin was provided in the 76th minute by Jackson to follow a Brek Shea rebound score in the 58th.
“Once they scored the first goal, it kind of deflated us because we knew we couldn’t get anything going offensively,” Marshall said.
Losing was bad enough, but bookings will cost the Crew (6-5-6) defender Andy Iro and midfielder Emmanuel Ekpo for Wednesday’s game at Vancouver, and coach Robert Warzycha said rookie defensive midfielder Rich Balchan will also be out after suffering a groin injury Saturday.
“That’s the most disappointing thing — that we lost so many players today,” Warzycha said.
Ekpo picked up a yellow card in the 20th minute and will sit because of an accumulation of caution points. Iro will join him on the sideline because his second of two yellows came in the 82nd minute. It was the first time a Crew player had been ejected in an MLS match this season.
“They’re important parts of our team,” Marshall said. “We’re going to miss them, but we have a deep team. I’m sure guys will step up.”
The lone positives for Columbus came in the surprise early return of defender Danny O’Rourke and the first appearance by midfielder Robbie Rogers since May 28.
Rogers had been away with the US national team at the Gold Cup but gathered rust because he did not play in the tournament. However, he did start Tuesday’s Lamar Hunt US Open Cup match, which turned out to be a stunning loss to the third-division Richmond Kickers.
O’Rourke also played in that match, which marked his first game since having knee surgery in November. Warzycha said midday Thursday that O’Rourke would not make the trip to Dallas but changed his mind a few hours later after consulting with the medical staff.
“It’s bittersweet, obviously,” O’Rourke said of his return. “It’s another step in my personal goal to get back out there at 100 percent.”
There would be no Hollywood ending for O’Rourke. After entering for Rich Balchan in the 69th minute, Jackson slipped behind him seven minutes later for the insurance goal.
“When I came on, it wasn’t as compact as it was maybe in the first half,” O’Rourke said. “By the time I got in there, it was a track meet. It was hard to get up to speed.”
The play was emblematic of the Crew’s inability to contain the swift FC Dallas attack, particularly Shea.
“We weren’t playing our best in the first half,” Marshall said. “We were definitely scrambling. We had our chances and so did they.
“We knew at halftime our problem was we were turning the ball over and being careless,” he added. “We gave them the ball on our side of the field and we couldn’t stop doing it in the second half.”