The Union's road winless streak reached 16 games on Wednesday night, as they fell to the Columbus Crew, 1-0, at MAPFRE Stadium.
After slogging through a scoreless first half, the Union (2-5-2, 8 points) conceded the goal by doing the one thing they could least afford to do: allow Crew striker Gyasi Zardes to get close to the goal.
Harrison Afful started the play with a cross from the right wing that Andre Blake could only parry away. Cristian Martinez pounced on the loose ball and sent it back across the six-yard box at an angle that forced Blake into a rare mistake. Zardes was waiting unmarked behind him and had a tap-in to score.
Coach Jim Curtin made two substitutions in the 59th minute, removing wingers Ilsinho and David Accam and sending in Marcus Epps and Fafa Picault. He didn't have a viable attacking replacement for any of the central midfielders, as Anthony Fontana wasn't on the bench.
The third substitution came in the 75th minute, when left back Fabinho went down in his first game since suffering a sprained MCL and torn meniscus in March. Ray Gaddis replaced him, making his 150th career appearance for the Union.
C.J. Sapong took a beating in the second half, suffering hard hits in the 65th and 85th minutes. He stayed down for quite a while on the second hit. With the Union's next game Saturday at Montreal (3 p.m., PHL17), Curtin might have to finally rest him after playing him for all but five minutes of the season.
The Union's best chance to score came in the 90th minute, when Sapong managed to force Columbus (5-3-3, 18 points) goalkeeper Zack Steffen into a sprawling save from close range. Haris Medunjanin had gotten into the box unmarked and had a chance to shoot from eight yards, but he tried to fool Steffen with a pass to Sapong instead. But Sapong could only redirect the ball.
Medunjanin threw his hands onto his head in exasperation — perhaps due to Sapong, perhaps due to his own decision, or perhaps due to it being yet another lost night.