In the second game of the Carolina Challenge Cup, Columbus Crew SC remained undefeated following a 1-1 draw with the host side Charleston Battery.
After the 2-1 victory over Atlanta United on Saturday, head coach Gregg Berhalter did as he promised and mixed up the lineup.
The Black & Gold came out brightly, creating early chances.
Forward Adam Jahn nearly put Columbus up after six minutes as he connected on a cross from wingback Harrison Afful, but the ball was deflected behind the net.
After 13 minutes, Crew SC earned a free kick at the top of the Battery penalty box after a handball on Dante Marini. Federico Higuain, who scored both goals in the win over Atlanta, stepped up to take the set piece but put his effort just wide.
Charleston nearly took the lead after 20 minutes when United loanee Romario Williams was sent on a break. His effort narrowly missed the far post, allowing goalkeeper Brad Stuver to breathe a sign of relief.
Five minutes later and the Battery did take the lead, this coming on a corner kick. The service was sent into the 18-yard box and defender Forrest Lasso outjumped Stuver to take the lead.
After the halftime break, Berhalter made several changes.
Attacker Justin Meram looked dangerous and nearly created the equalizer when he sprang forward Niko Hansen through on goal. The rookie beat the goalkeeper, but saw his effort clang off the far post.
Indirectly, Meram was involved in Columbus’ equalizer. After he was fouled out wide, central defender Nicoli Naess sent a hard cross in from the dead ball that was redirected home by a Battery defender.
Both teams had opportunities to win the match in the closing stages, including Jahn’s missed connection on a Mohammed Abu lofted pass to the back post, but neither side could find the finishing touch.
As he desired, Berhalter got more players minutes in this second-to-last preseason game and got to see different combinations of players. Fans got a first look at the three-man backline that has been discussed this preseason in the second half.
- Rookie defender Alex Crognale looked solid in possession in the first half, bringing the ball well into the attacking half on numerous occasions.
- The goalkeeper debate may have been settled in this game as Stuver struggled the couple of times he was tested, including the goal. Meanwhile, Zack Steffen stood up to the few chances he saw save for one play that hit the post.
- For the second game running Higuain was rather active. If he can stay healthy, expect him to very motivated this season after the injury last year.
- Wil Trapp had a decent start to the game, winning a few good tackles. He then committed a couple of needless fouls. The center of midfield certainly does not seem set at this point.
- It was good to see both Jonathan Mensah and Afful back from international duty. Both players made their preseason debut, starting the game, and Afful in particular played well up and down the right side.
- Per The Columbus Dispatch’s Andrew Erickson, Ola Kamara suffered a concussion while training in Columbus and is going through the protocol.