The rivalry match started with a bang courtesy of the fastest goal of the MLS season to date when Edgar Castillo fired home inside 25 seconds. Luciano Acosta then made it 2-0 before Lucas Zelarayan pulled a goal back right before halftime for a Columbus side that was forced to play with 10 men from the 43rd minute following a red card for Harrison Afful. But despite their numerical disadvantage, Columbus would not go home empty-handed, securing a point thanks to a first MLS goal from Miguel Berry.
The first half was action-packed from start to finish. In the opening seconds, Acosta brilliantly danced past challenges on the endline before cutting the ball back for Castillo, whose first-time left-footed strike flew into the net off the despairing boot of Jonathan Menash as he tried to block on the line. Castillo's effort was the 12th fastest goal in MLS history.
The jubilant home crowd did not have to wait long for a second goal. This time Acosta was both instigator and finisher. The Argentine No. 10 started a neat interchange on the edge of the box involving Brenner and Isaac Atanga before the ball fell back to him in the area and he finished calmly past Crew backup keeper Evan Bush.
As well as the goalmouth action, the first half was also characterized by some heavy challenges. Mensah was arguably fortunate to escape at least a yellow card on multiple occasions, including for a late challenge on Acosta that incensed the Cincinnati bench.
But Columbus' aggression would cost them before the half was out. Already booked early on, Afful earned his second yellow and a red in the 43rd minute for bundling Acosta over from behind.
The half had one more unexpected twist, though, In the first minute of stoppage time, Zelarayan unleashed an unstoppable first-time shot from all of 30 yards to give the visitors some hope heading into the interval.
That goal would prove huge in changing the momentum of the contest. Despite being down a man, the Crew took the game to Cincinnati in the second half. Zelarayan almost scored his second sensational goal of the night with another first-time blast from outside the box only for this one to cannon off the underside of the bar and away,
But the Crew would not be denied. In the 73rd minute, Zelarayan played an inch-perfect through ball into the area and Berry cooly dinked a shot over the advancing Kenneth Vermeer to rescue an unlikely point for the MLS Cup champs.
- BIG PICTURE: Both teams may well have taken a point at the start of the night but the way the game played out means the two teams finished with very different emotions. A Columbus team deprived of the services of Gold Cup participants Gyasi Zardes, Kevin Molino, Eloy Room and others, will be delighted to have come back to earn a point with 10 men. Cincinnati, meanwhile, will be ruing a missed opportunity to get a first win at their magnificent new home.
- MOMENT OF THE MATCH: Zelarayan’s rocket of a shot just before halftime changed the whole complexion of the match and gave the undermanned Crew belief going into the second half.
- MAN OF THE MATCH: It looked for much of the encounter as if this would be Luciano Acosta’s night, instead it was his fellow Argentine playmaker who narrowly takes the plaudits. Zelarayan almost single-handedly secured the Crew a point thanks to a sensational goal and perfectly played assist to once again show his value to Caleb Porter’s side.