0827 Pat Noonan CIN

Considering both FC Cincinnati and Columbus Crew are part of a battle royale near the Audi 2022 MLS Cup Playoffs line in the Eastern Conference, the latest chapter of the Hell is Real Derby was arguably the most meaningful to date.

Tempers expectedly flared between the rivals on the pitch, and emotions carried over to post-game press conferences for both managers following a wild 2-2 draw at TQL Stadium Saturday night.

An equalizer by right back Steven Moreira deep into second-half stoppage time secured a share of the points for the Crew, who twice rallied to level. As a result, Columbus sit seventh on the East table, just one point ahead of FC Cincinnati, who are below the playoff line – all pending Sunday's Week 27 results.

Goal controversy

It was Columbus’ first tally – Derrick Etienne’s 74th-minute header – that was a big talking point for Pat Noonan afterward, with the FC Cincinnati first-year coach wondering how the goal was allowed to stand when it appeared Etienne was in an offside position upon receiving Cucho Hernandez’s service.

GOAL: Derrick Etienne, Columbus Crew - 74th minute

“Let me be clear: We should see the game out. You’re asking about the offside goal, so we go up 2-1. We should see the game out. So that’s on us. Again, I wonder where six minutes [stoppage time] comes from,” Noonan said. “And the reasons you get for the offside goal, the checkpoint’s different than what they see in Atlanta [at the Video Review Center]. How can the checkpoint be different? How do you not have that view? How can you not just look at that and say, ‘I should check this. This is something that doesn’t look right.’

“But again, that’s the norm. So right now I’m the excuse guy and that stinks, but I want to protect our players because they put too much into it to be robbed like that.”

Noonan, in passionate remarks, also called the offside call "f---ing clear."

Porter calls for support

Crew head coach Caleb Porter, while not directly addressing that goal, said his team deserved to score both because of what he called a dominant performance from the visitors after halftime.

And while he’s not pleased to concede almost immediately after Etienne’s goal, with Matt Miazga putting FCC back in front three minutes later, he applauded his team’s effort and wished the Columbus fans would do the same.

“I think it would be nice if the fans start to talk a little bit better about the fight that this group is showing because I think they deserve that based on what we're doing,” Porter said. “I get it high standards are good, I have high standards, I'm pissed every game we don't win. But these guys deserve, with the season they're having and how much they're fighting and the results we're getting – they deserve for the supporters to feel good about how they fought today.”

The Crew have lost just once in their last 14 matches (5W-1L-8D), with the club-record signing of Hernandez a big reason for the MLS Cup 2020 champions' second-half revival.

While there’s been lopsided results throughout the league seemingly every week, Porter lauded his squad for the personality it has shown.

“I'm watching games in MLS, 4-0 losses. We're in every f---ing game, every game, every game we're fighting,” Porter said. “I think the fans should believe in us because I think we're going to do big things this year.”

Similarly, FC Cincinnati have drawn their last three matches and have just one loss – a 2-0 defeat in Columbus – in their last 13 matches.

Noonan also credited his team’s effort and the atmosphere within TQL Stadium, which is what makes conceding a pair of equalizers – the first controversially and the second at the death – so gutting.

“It felt like it was there for us, but it wasn’t meant to be,” Noonan said. “I’m also very proud of our group, our players, the effort they put in. I wish they could be rewarded with three points tonight. This is a tough one.”

WATCH: Late drama! Columbus Crew rescue 2-2 draw at FC Cincinnati