They had one of the most impressive runs during the MLS is Back Tournament group stage with a maximum three wins and no goals conceded. But Columbus Crew SC will be heading home after falling in a Round of 16 penalty kick shootout to Minnesota United.
It was a surprise exit for a Crew side that was not making any travel plans to head home after the contest against Minnesota.
"I honestly don’t know the schedules or the plans because we didn’t prepare to leave tomorrow," head coach Caleb Porter said postgame. "So I need to get with my team admin and find out when we’re going home and what the schedule is because nobody in this locker room -- not one staff member and not one player expected to go home today. We wanted to stay here. We wanted to advance.
"I don’t really look at it as we lost. We ran out of time," Porter continued. "And of course penalty kicks is a flip of a coin. So we’re going to leave with our heads high. Proud of the group. I do think we need to address some things. And that’s good. This is the first time we’ve tasted any disappointment since the season started.
"We didn’t lose one preseason game. We haven’t lost a regular season game. So this is the first feeling of disappointment. So that’s good. That’s good for our group to taste a little bit of disappointment and to know we have to improve. We’re six games in. And as I said going into this game, we’re just scratching the surface of the team we can be and there are some things we can definitely improve in. But by and large it’s a great tournament for us."
Columbus lamented conceding the 18th minute goal by Robin Lod which, according to Porter, allowed Minnesota to sit back and "the game becomes a lot more difficult."
"It’s difficult to break down 10 guys 30 yards from goal. It’s the toughest thing to do in our game," Porter said. "But we leave with our heads high. You can’t take away from this group what they’ve done in those first three [group] games and how hard they played today."
Porter felt his team controlled the match against Minnesota more than they did the previous three matches, but he wants to see his team improve at breaking down teams. He also highlighted other areas of improvement: set-piece and transition defending, missed crosses and over-crossing in the first half, missed shots, and antsy reactions when players had the ball in good positions.
"We’re mentally tough. Even at the end, there was only one team that was going to score," Porter said. "When you look at the way we were playing and how we were pushing and for us to finally break through and find that goal and level it, I thought we’d find the winner. We had two or three chances to win the game. So we ran out of time there. But we certainly it wasn’t for lack of push or an effort or hunger. We just ran out of time and then it’s flip a coin. Penalty kicks, ask anybody. It’s flip a coin.
"So we go home, we rest up, we reset and we throw everything into the season. We’re going to attack this season. This group is extremely hungry."