Columbus Crew came away with 2-2 draw vs Nashville SC despite Cucho Hernandez’s absence

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After being shut out at Charlotte last weekend, the Crew went to Nashville on Saturday looking to get back on the board without their leading goal scorer.

Already down forwards Christian Ramirez and Alex Matan due to injuries, the Crew were without Cucho Hernandez due to what the team said was a “non-injury related” issue. After Saturday’s 2-2 tie, coach Wilfried Nancy said the absence was because of “team policy.”

Hernandez leads the Crew with three regular-season goals and one in CONCACAF Champions Cup play.

Without Hernandez, Columbus managed to score twice and salvage the tie with Nashville SC.

Mar 30, 2024; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Nashville SC midfielder Brian Anunga (27) and Columbus Crew midfielder Yaw Yeboah (14) battle for the ball in the second half at Geodis Park. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

“I really liked the attitude of the guys,” Nancy said. “Because I remember last year, same game, we lost (3)-1, and it was a big gap between Nashville and us. Now, we can see that we did a good job.”

Sean Zawadzki, playing middle center back, made up for the Crew’s missing pieces in the first half.

Zawadzki scored his first goal of the season off a corner kick in the 17th minute. Diego Rossi kicked the corner from the right side, and after finding the ball in the air, Zawadzki sent a header from the left side of Nashville goalkeeper Elliot Panicco, into the back of the net for an early 1-0 lead.

Mar 30, 2024; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Columbus Crew midfielder Sean Zawadzki (25) celebrates with defender Steven Moreira (31) after a goal against Nashville SC during the first half at Geodis Park. Mandatory Credit: Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports

Near the start of stoppage time in the first half, Zawadzki suffered a head injury. He remained in the match until halftime but was replaced by Marino Hinestroza in the second half.

“I’m sad for Sean because he received the elbow of Steven (Moreira) in his head,” Nancy said. “It seems to be a concussion. I’m sad for him because he has been really important for us like every player, but he doesn’t deserve that. This is bad luck. Hopefully he’s going to get back soon.”

The Crew were also without defenders Rudy Camcho and Derrick Jones. The holes in the lineup meant Nancy had adjust his usual rotation and bump Yaw Yeboah to the front line and put Malte Amundsen on the midfield line.

Mar 30, 2024; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Columbus Crew forward Diego Rossi (10) and Nashville SC defender Daniel Lovitz (2) reacts after a play during the second half at Geodis Park. Mandatory Credit: Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports

Crew goalkeeper Patrick Schulte looked sharp for a majority of the first half. In the 13th minute, he recorded his first save of the game off an attempt from Sam Surridge.

Things started to get rocky for Schulte around the 39-minute mark, when he collided with Nashville’s Anibal Godoy in midair. The goalkeeper remained in the match following an evaluation from the Crew’s medical staff.

Nashville scored its first goal of the night three minutes into the six minutes of stoppage time..

Mar 30, 2024; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Nashville SC midfielder Anibal Godoy (20) scores on a backwards kick during the second half against Columbus Crew at Geodis Park. Mandatory Credit: Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports

Coming up the left side of the field, Nashville’s Jacob Shaffelburg sent a cross that Schulte tipped to the foot of Hany Mukhtar, who snuck the ball from the right side of the goal as Schulte was scrambling to reset.

“We should just do better in the cross lanes,” Crew defender Yevhen Cheberko said. “Especially today because Nashville always puts the cross from the sides, and they put players in the box.”

Soon after, Godoy scored off another Shaffelburg cross to send Nashville into halftime ahead 2-1.

The Crew were given a golden opportunity to tie the match at the 49-minute mark, following a yellow card in the penalty box on Nashville’s Jack Maher on Rossi. Though initially left uncalled, the referees went to VAR review and handed Maher the foul.

Mar 30, 2024; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Nashville SC midfielder Anibal Godoy (20) checks on Columbus Crew goalkeeper Patrick Schulte (28) after he was injured in the first half at Geodis Park. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Rossi’s penalty kick attempt hit the right post. The former Golden Boot winner is 0 for 13 on shot attempts in the regular season.

“I told him it doesn’t change,” Nancy said. “I’m confident that he’s going to score. This is a tough moment for him because obviously, he’s not happy. … It’s going to come. Diego is going to score.”

Mar 30, 2024; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Nashville SC goalkeeper Elliot Panicco (30) blocks a penalty kick during the second half against Columbus Crew at Geodis Park. Mandatory Credit: Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports

Hinestroza tied the game in the 79th minute, heading in a cross from Yeboah.

Hinestroza said the goal was satisfying because he noticed Nashville fans mocking the way he pulled up his shorts before entering the match.

“As soon as I saw that I wanted to score a goal,” Hinestroza said via a translator. “Make it known that what they were doing wasn’t right.”

The Crew will have little time before they play again, as they are set to play the first leg of the Champions Cup quarterfinal against Tigres on Tuesday.

In terms of Henandez returning for the match, Nancy said, “We’ll see what we’re going to do.”