One night after a disappointing 2-1 loss to the Philadelphia Union, the Columbus Crew SC reserves took to the field at MAPFRE Stadium to run out against the Notre Dame Men's Soccer Team. The game ended in a 1-1 draw after two second half goals. Columbus' Emil Larsen opened the scoring on a rocket volley after Justin Meram turned his man in the box and lofted a ball back across before the Irish tied the game shortly before the end of the match.
As these scrimmages usually go, this was a fairly enlightening one as we got a look at some of the new Black & Gold players in their first game action with the club.
Here was the lineup Crew SC began the game with:
In the second half, rookie goalkeeper Matt Pacifici came in for Brad Stuver and another assumed academy product came in for Cedrick Mabwati, but played left back moving Corey Ashe into the midfield.
The result wasn't really the important thing in this match, but how players, especially the new ones, are looking and fitting into the system. Here is what I noted during the match.
- In comparison with usual starters Federico Higuain and Wil Trapp, Emil Larsen and rookie Rodrigo Saravia were sitting deeper. Larsen plays the No. 10 role different than Higuain, popping up in different places seemingly out of nowhere. Saravia appeared to still be figuring out the defensive midfield spot in Gregg Berhalter's setup. He was noticeably concerned about covering for the back line when the Black & Gold attacked.
- Justin Meram and Cedrick were both very active in this match. With Larsen sitting a little deeper, these two were in the middle of the park supporting the forward quite often. We've seen some of this in the first two matches when these two come off the bench, but Meram and Cedrick give Crew SC a different look from the wingers than Ethan Finlay and Hector Jimenez.
- Mohammed Saeid took most of the corners for Columbus, as to be expected, but Meram and Cedrick also took at least one. Meram served in one dangerous ball, but it was cleared by the Irish.
- More than once, Larsen was knocked off the ball and lost possession. This is concerning because MLS players are going to be more physical than college kids out of season.
- The three best players on the field for Crew SC were Cedrick, Corey Ashe, and Mohammed Saeid. When Cedrick's first touch is good, he can be dangerous running at players and getting into dangerous positions. Ashe looks like he will be a viable option if something happens to either Waylon Francis or Harrison Afful, getting forward and serving good balls. Saeid pulled the strings in the midfield all game and wasn't afraid to fire a shot from outside the 18-yard box when he was given space.
- Rodrigo Saravia looked comfortable on the ball and had some nice passes. The issue was tackling where he often miss timed his challenges or simply just didn't win the ball. This is certainly something he can improve upon before he is needed to play major minutes.
- Amro Tarek looks like a viable option at center back. He is both athletic and physical and takes no prisoners when he tackles. While Columbus currently has its two center backs in place, if the club elects to purchase Tarek full time after his loan ends, they will have a talented option for the future.