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Columbus Crew SC debuted five new faces in opener

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How the Black & Gold’s new faces performed in the season opener.

MLS: Chicago Fire at Columbus Crew SC Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

Guilherme Torres is one of our newest writers on Massive Report. He is a Brazilian sports journalist who recently moved to Columbus three months ago, but has been following the club for the last years. You can find him on Twitter at @grtorres.

Here is his first Massive Report story.


Columbus Crew SC’s sporting director and head coach Gregg Berhalter said on the club’s 2016 season-ending interview, in early November, that the team would have as many as four new starters in the upcoming MLS season.

The coach could not have been more accurate, as Zack Steffen, Jonathan Mensah, Jukka Raitala and Mohammed Abu all started Crew SC’s 2017 season opening 1-1 draw against the Chicago Fire last Saturday at MAPFRE Stadium.

In addition to those four, the Black and Gold fans also saw new Brazilian midfielder Artur on the field for the first time.

Here is a look at how each player performed in his debut:

Zack Steffen

MLS: Chicago Fire at Columbus Crew SC Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

The 21-year-old goalkeeper joined Crew SC last season, but hadn’t played an MLS match before Saturday. Steffen was not frequently tested by the Fire’s offense, making only two saves (including a big one in the final minutes), and couldn’t do much to avoid David Accam’s goal.

Even though he was solid when requested, the former US Youth National Team keeper seemed a little hesitant in crosses and made a bad pass that could have put the team in trouble in the second half.

Jonathan Mensah

MLS: Chicago Fire at Columbus Crew SC Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

As a Designated Player, Jonathan was arguably the most hyped addition by Columbus and made his physical presence felt on the team’s backline, especially when covering for the full backs. He also looked more comfortable with the ball on his feet than many expected (with 91.7% passing accuracy) and initiated some possessions from the back.

Even though he can’t be fully blamed by the Fire goal and was caught out of position after Harrison Afful’s unsuccessful interception, Jonathan didn’t make things more difficult for fellow Ghanaian David Accam on the play that led to the equalizer.

Jukka Raitala

MLS: Chicago Fire at Columbus Crew SC Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

The Finnish left back was probably the most solid of the new faces in the season opener. Raitala was strong defensively, recording three tackles, three interceptions and three clearances, and did not allow the Fire to create opportunities from his side of the field.

Offensively, even though he is yet to develop full chemistry with Justin Meram, Raitala managed to have a good impact in the game, being part of the possession play that led to Ethan Finlay’s goal and feeding Ola Kamara with a good cross in the first half.

Mohammed Abu

MLS: Chicago Fire at Columbus Crew SC Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

The Ghanaian, who is the new starter in Crew SC’s midfield over Tony Tchani, had ups and downs against the Fire. He showed a good presence of the field, covering a lot of ground and being part of most of the offensive actions of the team.

However, he was not as effectively defensively as expected for a center midfielder, recording only one tackle in 76 minutes, and wasted some possessions, including the one that led to Accam’s goal. He created a good opportunity, though, in the first minutes with a nice through ball to Finlay.

Artur

Crew SC’s latest addition didn’t have a good first appearance. With only 14 minutes to show what he was capable of, the 20-year-old Brazilian seemed nervous and confused with the ball on his feet.

Even though he tried to push the team forward, Artur occasionally made bad decisions or delayed the team’s transition. Berhalter seems to be very high on the Brazilian, who is expected to show more once he is totally settled with the club.