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Columbus Crew SC scrimmage Akron to a 0-0 draw

The Black & Gold’s reserve players got some game action on Sunday against the Zips.

MLS: Columbus Crew SC at D.C. United Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Columbus Crew SC players that didn’t play, or didn’t play much, in Saturday’s 1-1 draw with the Chicago Fire got some game action on Sunday as the Black & Gold scrimmaged Akron at the EAS Training Center.

This has become a custom of the team during collegiate program’s spring practice. Head coach Gregg Berhalter likes to get some of the reserve players real game action against a competitive side.

“I think this situation, you have guys that some of them were involved last night in a substitute capacity, some of them weren’t even involved in the 18,” he said following the scrimmage. “So what I’m looking for the most in these games is the attitude and the mindset. That’s the most important thing. It’s about execution as well, but the first two things are attitude and mindset and I thought it was excellent today.”

The two sides played to a 0-0 draw, as Crew SC experimented a bit with player combinations and formations.

Columbus began the game with the three-man backline the group has worked on this preseason. Brad Stuver started in goal while rookies Lalas Abubakar and Alex Crognale, along with veteran Josh Williams, started in front of him. The wingbacks were rookie Connor Maloney on the right and Waylon Francis, who continues to recover from an injury, on the left.

The midfield consisted of Tony Tchani, new Brazilian loanee Artur and Hector Jimenez, while rookie Niko Hansen appeared to float between a midfield and forward role with Adam Jahn playing as the target striker.

As the game progressed, the Crew SC players seemed to settle into their roles and became more comfortable playing together. Right at the beginning of the second half, Francis sent in a dangerous cross to Jahn who’s header was over the crossbar, but it was a positive sign to start the second half.

Hansen nearly opened the scoring seven minutes into the second 45, pouncing on a rebound from a Jimenez shot. His effort didn’t miss by much, but was not on target.

The best chance of the match came on a free kick from Jimenez after Hansen was taken down just outside the penalty box. The midfielder curled a free kick over the wall and towards the top corner, but the Zip keeper made a fantastic save.

Both goalkeeper Logan Ketterer and midfielder Abuchi Obinwa made their non-competitive debut for the Black & Gold. Ketterer came on for Stuver at halftime and Obinwa for Artuer early in the second half.

The match was a feisty affair with both sides taking things seriously. A scuffle broke out following an Akron free kick when a Zip midfielder and both Jahn and Williams got in a shoving match. Both sideline officials rushed in to help break anything before it got too heated.

Thoughts from the match

  • Hansen continues to impress. He looks like he could be a contributor for this team, especially as a spark off the bench. Berhatler said he wanted to use him on Saturday against the Chicago Fire, but the opportunity didn’t present itself. His dribbling ability is already good and reminds me of Justin Meram.
  • Like he did against the Fire, Artur looked unsure of himself and tentative in this scrimmage. He did well on the ball, but wasn’t taking on opponents and quickly gave the ball up when he received it.
  • Williams, who wore the captain’s armband, constantly talked to his teammates. He gave instructions to Francis and told Crognale, who was the center of the three defenders, multiple times to talk to Williams and let him know what’s going on behind him.
  • Maloney continues to impress in his limited action. Berhalter talked about him as the surprise of the preseason following the scrimmage as he looked good on the right side again, both defensively and getting into the attack.
  • Abubakar appears to be quite the draft selection. He may not see a ton of MLS minutes this year if Nicolai Naess and Jonathan Mensah stay healthy, but the rookie defender is nearly always in the right positions and has the strength and athleticism to battle with attackers.