It was one step forward and two back for Chivas USA on Saturday, when they bolted three times to leads but couldn't hold onto any of them after defensive breakdowns forged a 3-3 draw at Columbus.
Picking up a point on the road: always a good thing, right? But this one felt more like a loss after Nick LaBrocca, Andy Boyens and Jorge Flores provided advantages before defensive miscues, the worst an unforgivable back pass by Simon Elliott, enabled the Crew to rally each time.
Ante Jazic was the hero for Chivas (3-4-4), clearing two sure-thing goals from danger -- the second in the 90th minute -- in a superb performance that contrasted greatly among the subpar showings surrounding him.
Chivas, which played with 10 men after Flores received his second yellow card in the 69th minute, scored three goals for the third time in five games. It did well possessing the ball, in creating dangerous chances and especially finishing them, although the Crew's defensive work wasn't much better than the Goats'.
Columbus (3-3-5) got lost as LaBrocca finished a Justin Braun cross after a nifty Elliott pass into space in the fourth minute, Boyens leapt over and Tommy Heinemann and Riverside's Chad Marshall to nod home Heath Pearce's corner kick in the 37th, and Flores knocked in a through ball from Ben Zemanski in the 57th that Crew goalkeeper Will Hesmer should have done better with.
Andres Mendoza scored twice for the Crew, which had scored just four goals from the run of play during their first 10 games, and Emmanuel Ekpo's strong effort in front of Chivas' goal was rewarded with the 64th-minute equalizer.
“We put ourselves in that situation [to settle for a draw],” said Chivas captain Alejandro Moreno. “I still maintain that we hung on for a point, but we shouldn’t have been in that position to begin with. It came from mistakes, it came from us not being able to keep the ball when we had the chance to do so. We didn’t really manage the game the way we should have. In the end we were punished.”
A quick look at Chivas' draw:
BEST PLAYER: Nobody was better than Ekpo, who was at the heart of the Crew's attack, and props, too, to Robbie Rogers (from Palos Verdes/Huntington Beach) and Josh Gardner on Columbus' left flank. But the biggest imprint was made by Jazic, the Goats' left back, who prevented two goals -- islands in an otherwise poor defensive showing by Chivas -- to keep things level.
The first, on a Heinemann shot that goalkeeper Dan Kennedy got a hand to in the 12th minute, was a minor miracle. Mendoza was right there, and the slightest of pokes would have made the difference, but Jazic was quicker to the ball. The second, a 90th-minute volley after Jeff Cunningham nodded the ball past an onrushing Kennedy, secured a share of the points.
BEST GOAL: All six had more to do with defensive errors than anything else, but let's highlight two of them. Ekpo's run through Chivas' midfield and feed through traffic to Mendoza on the Crew's first goal was impressive.
And the opener was nice in an awkward way, with some decent buildup on the right, Elliott's one-touch to put the ball into space on the left side of the box, Braun's cross back through the goalmouth and La Brocca's run to get free to volley it home.
BIGGEST STRUGGLE: Chivas has done a decent job with its team defending this season, and a lot that has been how well they adjust when mistakes are made. It's not always pretty, but it's been largely effective.
Not so much Saturday. Kennedy wasn't sharp, defenders failed to step up at critical times, and one poor back pass cost the Goats a victory.
Someone needed to confront Ekpo on his run to set up Mendoza's first goal, and neither Pearce nor Zarek Valentin can be proud of their work on Ekpo's finale. But the second Crew goal defies understanding. Elliott, not under tremendous pressure, played the ball backward -- right onto Mendoza's foot, leaving him an open path to the box, and he slotted past Kennedy and inside the left post.
Boyens and Valentin made crucial saves in the box -- Valentin's on Cunningham in the 67th was a high point -- but it's Jazic who stood tallest.
WORTH NOTING: Boyens' goal was just his second in 63 MLS regular-season games. He scored for Toronto FC in 2007. … Late sub Gerson Mayen saw his first first-team action since April 9. … UC Santa Barbara alum Andy Iro came on as a forward in stoppage, his first league appearance this year. Nobody could hook up with the big center back, meant to be a target for balls into the box … Rookie Justin Meram came off the bench to make his MLS debut for Columbus, was most disappointing, failing to get a competent header when presented an opportunity to score the winner and twice losing the ball in the closing seconds with Iro looking for service.
FINAL JUDGMENT: “I’m pretty disappointed with the tie, to be quite honest. I think we all are,” Chivas coach Robin Fraser said. “At the end, I’m happy to get a point. I’d rather have a point than no points, but certainly I felt like we played well enough to get all three points. We really made some mistakes at the end, but … I felt we did extremely well in terms of possession and then in turning the possession into chances.”
NEXT: Wednesday vs. Vancouver Whitecaps at Home Depot Center (Carson), 7:30 p.m. (Fox Sports West)
Columbus Crew Stadium (Columbus, Ohio)
Columbus Crew 3, Chivas USA 3
CUSA -- Nick LaBrocca (Justin Braun, Simon Elliott) 4
C -- Andres Mendoza (Emmanuel Ekpo) 17
CUSA -- Andy Boyens (Heath Pearce) 37
C -- Andres Mendoza 52
CUSA -- Jorge Flores (Ben Zemanski, Ante Jazic) 57
C -- Emmanuel Ekpo 64
Columbus Crew: Will Hesmer; Sebastian Miranda, Chad Marshall, Julius James, Rich Balchan; Eddie Gaven (Andy Iro, 93+), Josh Gardner, Emmanuel Ekpo, Robbie Rogers; Andres Mendoza (Jeff Cunningham, 70), Tommy Heinemann (Justin Meram, 75).
Chivas USA: Dan Kennedy; Zarek Valentin, Andy Boyens, Heath Pearce, Ante Jazic; Ben Zemanski, Simon Elliott (Gerson Mayen, 90), Nick LaBrocca, Jorge Flores; Justin Braun (Chris Cortez, 93+), Alejandro Moreno (Francisco Mendoza, 79). Unused subs: Victor Estupiñan, Paulo Nagamura, Zach Thornton, Mariano Trujillo.
Yellow cards: Flores 21, 69, Pearce 46. Red card: Flores 69.
Referee: Jasen Anno. Att.: 9,431.