The Columbus Crew were just seconds away from securing a win in Vancouver that would have guaranteed their survival for another week in the race for the Audi 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs, and possibly even given them an outside shot at getting in.
Instead, Fredy Montero rose above Connor Maloney with one of the final touches of the game to head home a looping cross, and the worst team in the Western Conference managed to steal points from the Crew at the death in a 1-1 draw Saturday. And while it might have always been a long shot for the Crew to make the playoffs at this stage of the season, the end of the game epitomized why Columbus now find themselves on the brink of elimination (other results meant they were not officially out on Saturday) in the first year of head coach Caleb Porter's tenure.
“It’s really disappointing,” Porter told reporters after the game. “The season was on the line, we’re up 1-0, 10 seconds to go. We need to put the ball in the stands. These are simple things that you have to do to win games and we do the wrong things and it’s cost us this season, honestly.
“If we could see out a game this year we’d be in the playoffs.”
As far as seeing out the game is concerned, the Crew are just about in the middle of the road in terms of goals conceded in the final 15 minutes of a game, even after conceding on Saturday evening. That goal was the 12th they've conceded in that period of games this season, tying them for eighth in the league alongside three other teams.
Nonetheless, there have been some notable instances in which the Crew have squandered points late on this season, especially recently against in-conference opponents. They coughed up a win on Aug. 17 against Toronto — tying 2-2 after a 90th minute goal — and did the same two weeks later against Chicago, allowing an equalizer in the fourth minute of stoppage time to tie 1-1.
Had the Crew not coughed up those six points against Toronto, Chicago and now Vancouver in the last five weeks (not to mention a few ties that turned into late losses earlier in the year), they'd be tied with the New England Revolution for the seventh and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Instead, they're staring elimination in the face, needing to win both their remaining games while praying for a series of miracles in other games around the league.
“Other games we had the same result. At the end we draw the game or didn't win,” Crew goalkeeper Eloy Room said after the game. “So it had to be a lesson for us but we still make the same mistakes. … How we played the last 15 minutes of the game we didn't deserve to go in the playoffs.”