If you really cared about the details of what happened between Columbus Crew SC and Mexican side Tiburones Rojos Veracruz on Wednesday night, you would have been one of the 10,799 present at MAPFRE Stadium.
Here's what you need to know:
The Black & Gold came out with a mix of starters and reserves in the opening 45 minutes of the match. Striker Ola Kamara had a one-time finish on a pass across the penalty area from winger Cedrick Mabwati in the 17th minute for the friendly's only goal. Kamara had two more clear cut chances and two half chances and said following the game that on a luckier day, he would have scored a hat trick.
The second half was less dominated by Crew SC after making several changes. The club's two players on loan to the Pittsburgh Riverhounds of the USL, midfielders Ben Swanson and Marshall Hollingsworth, both played as well as trialist Crisitan Martinez, a midfielder. There was much less cohesion with the second unit, but Columbus defended well in numbers and held on for the first international friendly victory since defeating Stoke in 2012.
Thoughts on the Match
- With Ola Kamara on the field, as opposed to usual starter Kei, the Black & Gold play a different style. It's similar to how Gregg Berhalter had the team play in his first year in charge when Jairo Arrieta was in the game, but Ola seems a more consistent finisher. There are less crosses in the air -- although Ola told me he likes those too -- and more balls played on the ground. Ola often attracts the run of the primary defender, freeing space for an underneath attacker to make a run into the box.
- Despite a bit of an untraditional midfield (Cedrick and Emil Larsen getting the start) there were several series of quick one- and two-touch passes. Multiple times the Black & Gold got in dangerous positions because of this and it even helped lead to the lone goal of the match.
- Why Emil Larsen isn't making the game day roster is a mystery to many Crew SC fans, but he was fairly impressive tonight except for the later stages of the match when his legs began to go. He plays different than Higuain, as he's closer to the front man, acting as a secondary forward underneath the No. 9. Over the first 50 minutes or so, he was one of the better players of the 22 on the field.
- Mohammed Saeid continues to impress in the Black & Gold's midfield. His passing is almost always on point and he makes such good, quick decisions that it's sometimes hard to notice what he just did.
- Justin Meram lined up on the right side today (the spot usually filled by Ethan Finlay) in order to allow Cedrick to play in his natural spot. Meram played his usual style of game, getting involved in the middle of the field and being dangerous. He also was a more capable crosser as he was more often on his stronger right foot out wide.
- Hector Jimenez may not have a natural position on this team, but I always like what I see out of him. He knows this system well and where to be. He's an easy outlet on the right side, works hard offensively and defensively, and serves a dangerous ball. All of those things were on display today playing right back.
- After a disappointing performance on Saturday, Harrison Afful looked good coming off the bench. His movement with the ball was more what fans have come to expect and he was able to connect on passes.
- Brad Stuver played another solid friendly after last year's performance. The goalkeeper, who didn't have much to do in the first half and came up big a couple of times in the second, said following the contest that he's learned a lot from starter Steve Clark and is always ready when his name is called.
- Kei Kamara and Federico Higuain were both in attendance on Wednesday. Berhalter was asked after the match if he expects to make any trades by the 1:00 am EST deadline and responded with "I have no idea."