Columbus Crew head coach Caleb Porter hailed his team's comeback from two goals down to rescue a point in a 2-2 draw at Chicago Fire on Saturday despite being without key midfield duo Darlington Nagbe and Lucas Zelarayan.
The duo have been two of the key reasons for the Crew's flying start to the season but both were absent with minor injuries at Soldier Field. And their absences looked like they would prove costly when Chicago raced into 2-0 lead inside 15 minutes. But second-half goals from Fatai Alashe and, with two minutes remaining, Gyasi Zardes, extended the Crew's lead atop the Eastern Conference, and Supporters' Shield, standings to three points.
"For us to come from behind, down 2-0, and get the point on the road without two of our best attacking players, I think is a real credit again to our team," Porter said in his post-match press conference. "We never talked about that. We never made excuses about that. We showed a lot of belief in the team that started the game. And I think the guys showed belief in what we're doing."
Porter described himself as "mad" with the way the Crew started the game in the first 20 minutes, but at least in part attributed it to the uncertainty over the fitness of Nagbe and Zelarayan in the days leading into the game.
"There wasn't a lot of rhythm in our practice week, because we basically prep one day, and then Darlington was out, and then we prepped another game today and then Lucas was out," he said. "So we actually didn't prep with the lineup we started because it was pretty much a change we had to make the day before."
The ultimate feeling was one of positivity for the Crew, though. Neither injury to Nagbe or Zelarayan is serious, Porter said, and even enduring their worst start to a game this season could have benefits in the long run.
"I think that's the second learning lesson is we can come from behind if we need to," said Porter. "We don't want to. We prefer to start the game strong and get the first goal. But also, when we have to come from behind, you know by throwing the kitchen sink and being direct and clawing and scrapping and grinding and doing all the dirty little things that we need to come back. We can do that.
"No matter what you think or say before a match, until you get punched in the nose — because you'd let your guard down — you're probably never really going to kind of learn that lesson."