Crew bows out of the U.S. Open Cup with a 1-0 loss at Pittsburgh Riverhounds

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A trip into Pennsylvania saw did not go the way the Columbus Crew hoped. After making it to the Round of 16 of the U.S. Open Cup, the Crew bowed out of the tournament with a 1-0 loss to USL Championship side Pittsburgh Riverhounds. 

Pittsburgh was on the front foot from the opening whistle. The Riverhounds continued to push the ball down the flanks and put balls into the penalty box but were not dangerous while the Black & Gold defense was able to clear.

It took Columbus a little over 10 minutes to get into the game. The Crew slowly built into the contest, finding pockets of space in and around the Pittsburgh midfield. However, when it looked like the Black & Gold would push the ball into the final third, Columbus continued to turn the ball over. 

Pittsburgh was not able to capitalize off those mistakes until midway through the first half. Crew 2 midfielder Thomas Roberts, called up to the first team for this match, was dispossessed near the center circle leading to a quick break for the home side. The Riverhounds broke through the Black & Gold’s defensive line as forward Albert Dikwa was sprung one-on-one with Columbus goalkeeper Evan Bush and made no mistake with the finish.

The Crew found a spell of good possession, but could not find the final ball that led to a goal in the opening 45 minutes with Pittsburgh creating the better chances of the half. The Black & Gold created little offensively in the first half and the defense struggled to clear the lines.

Things did not get much better for Columbus to start the second half. The Riverhounds came out of the dressing room on the front foot, but they couldn’t find a second goal.

The best chance of the game for the Crew came 53 minutes in when Roberts unleashed a low shot through traffic. Pittsburgh goalkeeper Jahmali Waite parried the shot out for a corner, however. 

Columbus created more chances in the second half, pushing forward down a goal, but still could not find the back of the net. Forward Gibran Rayo made his first team debut in the 60th minute after being called up from Crew 2. Five minutes later, Rayo had a shot that was blocked, but Waite fumbled it, leading to a scramble in the penalty box. The Pittsburgh goalkeeper was eventually able to collect.

The Riverhounds almost doubled their lead in the 74th minute after a botched clearance attempt from the Crew backline found a wide open Pittsburgh attacker, but he skied the attempt.

Pittsburgh again almost closed the game out after midfielder Aidan Morris turned the ball over in his own 18-yard box, but Bush made the save.

In the end, the Black & Gold did not have enough with a relatively inexperienced lineup to find a goal and continue the Open Cup run.

Youth played a role

It’s not a surprise that Wilfried Nancy was going to play a rotated squad. He has featured almost the same players for every round of the U.S. Open Cup, and today was no different. Multiple guys made their first team debuts, including Crew Academy player Taha Harbroune who signed his first professional contract last week. “They turned up the intensity, and we were not able to match that” head coach Wilfried Nancy said. 

Lack of quality in the final third

A problem multiple times this season has been youth, or inexperience, for the Crew. Be it an inability to create goal scoring opportunities with key players on the field or a backline is put in bad positions, this is a story fans have seen before. Wednesday was no different.

Though the Black & Gold had three shots on goal, they were outshot 9-7 in total. Columbus also had 75 percent possession, but, like has happened at times this year, the team could not take advantage. 

What’s next

The Crew remains on the road with a trip to Nashville SC on Sunday night. The game kicks off at 8:30 p.m. ET on MLS Season Pass on Apple TV.

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