Lately, much of the discourse around the Columbus Crew has been the rate at which they’ve allowed late goals, resulting in dropped points and a slide down the Eastern Conference table.
Head coach Caleb Porter’s team flipped that narrative Saturday night at Lower.com Field, rallying for a 2-1 win over the New York Red Bulls. The Crew got two goals from winger Derrick Etienne Jr., the former Red Bulls homegrown, first in the 89th minute and then in the 93rd minute, a huge result in the Audi 2022 MLS Cup Playoffs race.
“I thought this was the breakthrough that we kind of needed,” Porter said postgame.
Columbus will know for certain if that’s the case come Decision Day on Oct. 9, when they head to Orlando City SC with a playoff berth likely on the line. They’ll also visit Charlotte FC this coming Wednesday (7 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+) in a makeup game that’ll resume in the 16th minute with the scoreline at 0-0, following a weather-forced postponement on July 30.
Six points are there for the taking, and Porter said job No. 1 is done in that respect by completing a comeback vs. RBNY.
“Our goal going into the three games was to win all three,” Porter said, with star striker Cucho Hernandez suspended against New York. “If we can win all three, we're going to be in the playoffs and we're going to have a lot of momentum.
“[Portland] 2015, I was part of a team that had to win all three to get in and we won all three and won MLS Cup,” he added. “Last year, we won all three and missed it by a point. We would have made a run at it.”
WATCH: What a comeback! Derrick Etienne sends Crew past RBNY
Porter also took pride in Columbus getting the result against New York, who are one of four Eastern Conference teams already guaranteed a playoff spot this year. Their high-pressing style can make the game challenging, and Frankie Amaya’s 53rd-minute opener nearly brought the visitors their 10th road win of the year.
“I'm really proud of the group today because they did things they don't necessarily like to do or want to do all the time,” Porter said. “Nobody wakes up out of bed and says I'd like to smash my face 20 times off the back of somebody's head to head the ball out or deal with long throw-ins all game or deal with direct play or get kicked.
“Maybe Aidan Morris, maybe he enjoys that and wakes up looking forward to that. But very few other guys do, and when you look at the entire group, they did that today.”
Columbus will end Week 33 in eighth place (outside playoff picture), tied with Inter Miami CF on 45 points, but trailing them in the wins tiebreaker. Should that hurdle be cleared, and the Crew take care of business themselves, Porter believes the MLS Cup 2020 champions can make some noise.
“It's not bad to kind of be under pressure in the last three games of the year,” he said. “Because if you can get in and win those games under pressure, you are ready for the playoffs.”
“I've always believed in this team,” Porter added. “I've said it, this is one of the best teams I've had, which is saying a lot because I've had some good teams. This team has a real heart to it. Obviously we haven't won as many games as we should have, but they're pretty consistent.”