Porter and Crew disappointed to draw on "emotional" day in Columbus

COLUMBUS, Ohio – For Columbus Crew SC, Saturday’s 1-1 draw with the New York Red Bulls in the team’s season-opening match in MAPFRE Stadium was bittersweet.

Ultimately, the day was a triumph before kickoff. The team’s new ownership group, led by the Haslam and Edwards families, was on hand to witness the match, and a nearly full MAPFRE Stadium greeted players on a cold March afternoon.

“We could hear them,” winger Justin Meram said after the match. “When you look around the stadium, it was pretty packed. So I’m thankful for all the fans in Columbus.”

But the match itself left players wanting more.

A 6th-minute Andreas Ivan goal gave the Red Bulls an early lead against the run of play, and the Crew could find just a set-piece goal in the 41st minute to respond, despite a flurry of attacks late in the match.

Wil Trapp said the draw “in a lot of ways feels like a loss,” and meant the team didn’t fully capitalize on the moment, especially against a Red Bulls side that was reserve-heavy with the team in the middle of the 2019 Concacaf Champions League.

“I thought [the atmosphere] was wonderful, but I think we’re all disappointed we didn’t win,” Trapp said. “These are the types of games where you can really build that momentum with the fan experience and the supporters. To have the chances, especially at the end…and not score was disappointing.”

Crew head coach Caleb Porter, managing his first match at the helm of Crew SC, agreed. He said “we feel like it’s two points dropped,” but said he understood that the combination of the atmosphere and the difficult opponent made for an unusual match.

“It was an emotional first game for everyone – my first game, the players’ long last couple years not knowing what was going to happen,” he said. “There was a weight lifted, of course, with the Crew being saved. And this was a tough game against a team that makes it choppy, makes it physical, makes it combative. … So we’re disappointed with the one point, 100 percent.”

Porter wasn’t thrilled with the way his team played, particularly in the first half. He said he felt New York did a better job of winning duels that disrupted the Crew and “took us off our game.” And once the Red Bulls had their first goal, he said they were able to “buckle down and play for the point.”

“They weren’t really trying to play,” Meram agreed. “They were more trying to battle and win the second balls and kind of come up with a goal from our mistake, and that’s kind of how it happened – a turnover, one pass and a goal.”

But Porter said his team can take a lesson from a match that “gets us ready for the grind.”

“In some ways, this is a good way to start because this league isn’t easy,” he said. “Three points are never easy. We’re not always going to be able to walk onto the field and pass the ball around. This league is tough. If you let your guard down, you can get punched in the face. If you’re not ready to fight and battle and do the little things you need to, you can give up goals. I think it’s a good reminder of that.”