Major League Soccer has concentrated the Ohioans, and the pissed levels are off the charts.
There are certain American states whose citizens have an identity. Minnesotans are nice. Californians are laid-back. Missourians are… whatever you call the mood is that prompts you to put a huge tent full of fireworks in an empty field. But Ohioans… Ohioans are pissed.
Ohioans get pissed. Ohioans get very mad about things. Ohio brought us Hawthorne Heights, Trent Reznor, Marilyn Manson, and TwentyOne Pilots. Some of those are more whiny than pissed, but you get my point. Sometimes you gotta take the interstate between Athens and Columbus in your 2002 Dodge Neon and scream about some shit, and I appreciate Ohioans for being so outwardly pissed.
(NOTE: I know about five people from Ohio and they’re all among the kindest and smartest people I’ve ever met. I am immensely, 100%, genuinely, pro-Ohio)
In the third playing of the Hell is Real rivalry series between MLS’ two Ohio clubs (I’m counting the 2017 US Open Cup match), Ohio pissedness reached a boiling point. Both Ohio clubs are sitting at the bottom of the Eastern Conference right now. Neither of them have a shot at the playoffs. It’s been a long, tough season for both Columbus and Cincinnati. The two matches between them have provided an outlet for the impotent rage that a losing, pointless season holds. They channeled it in the most Ohioan of ways:
A weird shoving match within the Crew’s goal after the game had already been decided.
I have put the footage of this weird shoving match on YouTube. It is, admittedly, a recording of my television off of my phone, but whatever, nobody’s uploaded the full thing yet off of a screen capture. My goal here is to determine how this scuffle formed, which moments defined this scuffle, and maybe, just maybe, have a few laughs along the way.
MOMENT ONE: THE GOAL
This is a very good goal! A great finish by Kekuta Manneh and a really good pass through the defense by Emmanuel Ledesma. Ledesma’s role as primary instigator of the goal here is prophetic given what is to come.
MOMENT TWO: THE FIRST INSTIGATION
Crew defender Jonathan Mensah makes a smart tactical decision to recover and hold on to the ball so that Cincinnati can’t take it immediately back to the spot to expedite a kickoff. This is one of the funniest, most archaic things about soccer in a modern sports context. Every other (particularly American) sport is so specific about how the clock runs. It’s an absolute bummer particularly in basketball situations, where referees will spend minutes on end near the end of a game staring at a monitor, trying to determine whether there are 6.4 or 6.8 seconds left on the shot clock. It’s important, yes, but there’s little funnier to me than a sanctioned incident wherein a group of adult men fight over who gets to hold on to a ball.
Now, the fight officially begins when Victor Ulloa shoves Mensah into the back of the net. Mensah hits back with an awkward open-hand slap the back of Ulloa’s head. Manneh can be seen trotting away, wanting no part in the fight. Referee Timothy Ford struggles to break them up. At the end of this GIF, in charges Emmanuel Ledesma to pull Mensah away.
MOMENT THREE: LEDESMA’S WRATH, MENSAH’S FUMBLE, LAMAH’S ENTRY
This scrap could have very well come to an end at this point. A few Crew players had stepped in to break up the action, chief among them Columbus’ Artur and Cincinnati’s Allan Cruz. At this point, Ledesma gets in what would be one final cheap shove on Crew goalkeeper Eloy Room. At the same time, Mensah makes a small blunder, dropping the ball. Had he not droppped the ball here, the rest of the scuffle likely wouldn’t have taken place, as the question of who gets possession of the ball and the pace with which it’s brought back to the center of the pitch would have been rendered mostly moot.
But the most important character here is Cincinnati forward Roland Lamah, spotting the opportunity to pick up the loose ball and charging in from out of frame. In doing so, he lands a forearm to Mensah’s face. Mensah’s fumble goes backward, thus stopping the flow of conflict from exiting the goal.
What’s really unique about this scuffle is that the players here are penned in on three sides. Had this ruckus been caused anywhere else, there would have been a lot of open space to allow players to remove themselves and cool down. However, as evidenced by Crew forward Harrison Afful’s attempt to walk away which only leads him to the goal’s corner, the players have little choice but to react to the tensions flowing in their enclosed space.
MOMENT FOUR: ENTER WASTON
At this moment, we see two crucial incidents. For one, we have FCC’s Kendall Waston, who is a very large and strong man, being restrained by Eloy Room. We also see Emanuel Ledesma remove himself from the scrap, walking off screen. In goal we see the action begin to slow, and I really can’t determine where the ball is at this point anyway. At this point we reach the peak of the mass of bodies, wherein ten men kind of lightly shove each other inside the goal. Manneh and Crew defender Connor Maloney seem to accept that they don’t want to get into it.
MOMENT FIVE: RE-ENTER LEDESMA
Just as the fight’s reaching its end, we see the ball’s original holder, Jonathan Mensah, remove himself from the scrum with full possession. Ford re-enters the situation, which I think is an underrated aspect of the scrum. The referee basically stepped away after the first slaps were thrown and didn’t return until the end here.
Once Waston removes himself from the clutches of Room, Ledesma re-inserts himself into the situation. He attempts to take some sort of hand action, but his arm is just, like, straight up caught by Room the same way that an inferior opponent in a martial arts movie gets his punch stopped. I think this is the moment which cements the only disciplinary action of the scuffle, which is a yellow card given to Ledesma.
NOTE: Ulloa for Cincinnati and Mensah for Columbus were given cards for this. Ledesma received a card later
The thing which most interested me about this scuffle was just how impotent and ultimately pointless it was. The game was in hand, Columbus had a 3-1 lead and the fight took place right before second-half stoppage time. Even if Lamah had successfully recovered the ball dropped by Mensah at moment three and sprinted back to the center spot, planted the ball down, and then got the Crew to kickoff, they weren’t going to pull back a third goal. Cincinnati hasn’t scored more than two goals in 90+ minutes more than twice this season, they weren’t going to all of a sudden get much better and score two more by the end of this match.
It didn’t feel prideful, either. You didn’t see chests puffed out, you didn’t really see all that much yelling, or anything of the sort. Again, the match was over. Anything that a Cincinnati player did for pride here wasn’t going to override the shame of a 3-1 loss at home to your in-state rival who’s also going through an awful season. No, I think there was a much simpler explanation as to why there was a small, weird tussle which went down in the Crew SC goal on Sunday:
They were just pissed. Sometimes you’re just pissed and you wanna push a man into the back of a soccer goal, then listen to that Trapt song in your shitty Camaro. It’s a very Ohio sentiment to arise out of the end of a uniquely Ohio rivalry. Hell is Real