Even before the opening whistle on Saturday night, Columbus Crew SC were facing a tough test on the road against FC Dallas. As Crew head coach Caleb Porter told it after the match, the fates were conspiring against his team in the form of injuries to two key players, Lucas Zelarayan and Eloy Room, as well as some key calls from match referee Ted Unkel. But Porter was happy to see the Crew fight through adversity and come away with the 2-2 result.
"I'm really proud of my guys," Porter proclaimed in the post-match press conference. "You know, the way we played that second half, with all the adversity we were dealing with. Guys dropping like flies injury-wise, an official who I've been vocal that I'm not a fan of, he's never gonna help me, and that was the case again."
He added, "Our guys just never gave in. They kept fighting, they kept working and kept grinding, they rolled their sleeves up. Whether we would have won the game, drew the game, or lost the game, I would have been proud of this group. In the second half, they showed character, they showed the personality, they showed the aggression. That's the way we need to play. That's our game, relentless, and [with] intensity."
Porter had to make two key injury subs in the match, the first necessitated by Zelarayan going down with a leg injury chasing down a ball for a shot attempt at the tail end of the first half. Though Porter doesn't know the extent of the injury, or whether the Argentine, Liga MX-to-MLS star will be ready to take the field when the Crew play again on Wednesday, he didn't like the looks of the injury.
HIGHLIGHTS: Crew get draw vs. FCD
"It's definitely something, otherwise he wouldn't have come out of the game. It's probably not good. We're hoping it's not too long, but it's definitely something there that Lucas has. We'll see the extent of it."
Starting goalkeeper Room also appeared to suffer a leg injury early through the second half, and when it was clear his mobility was compromised, Porter opted to switch him out for Andrew Tarbell. Though Porter hinted that Room could be back sooner than Zelarayan, he's confident in Tarbell's ability should Room not be able to make the midweek start against Montreal.
"I thought he's played really well in the games that he's played," Porter said of Tarbell, who kept FC Dallas from scoring in his portion of the match. "He's a very good goalkeeper, a shot stopper. I don't know that Eloy's going to be out, but we feel comfortable if we have to play Andrew Tarbell that he can do the job. He's done it before."
Porter had a list ready post-match to paint a picture of a match made more uphill by the calls — though he didn't mention a foul that wasn't called in the second half, resulting in Porter expressing his displeasure and Unkel responding by showing him a yellow card.
"It's just typical," Porter said of how Unkel called the match. "I don't want to talk about it too much, but if you go back, every single game, and today is no different. I thought there was a handball in the first half, they didn't even look at it, of course. He calls a PK [against Harrison Afful] and then they don't look at that, but then we score a goal and then they look at that."
Porter is referring to Gyasi Zardes' apparent equalizer that came off the scoreboard after Video Review due to offside.
"For me, it's just not equitable. But it doesn't surprise me. I knew that going into the game, and it is what it is, nothing can do about it. At the end of the day, I'm really pleased my team dealt with the adversity, all of it, and was able to get the point."