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Columbus Crew SC defeat Michigan State 3-0 in Sunday scrimmage

The Black & Gold reserves looked good against the Spartans.

Whatever the first team can do, we can do better. That might have been the message from Columbus Crew SC’s reserves on Sunday morning.

Just hours after the Black & Gold defeated Orlando City SC 2-0 for the team’s third consecutive win, the reserves took down Michigan State by a 3-0 final scoreline at the EAS Training Center.

As is typically the case for these scrimmages, the players who played major minutes on Saturday did not feature, opening the door for 12 other guys to get some playing time.

The big news was the first sighting of Kekuta Manneh, who joined the team on Thursday in a trade with the Vancouver Whitecaps, in his new Crew SC gear. The attacker started on the right wing and looked good, playing 45 minutes.

It didn’t take long for the Black & Gold to get on the scoreboard. Just seven minutes in, Manneh left a pass for overlapping right back Connor Maloney. The defender sent in a low cross that was redirected home by forward Adam Jahn.

The Spartans were content to let Columbus play out of the back and Crew SC dominated possession. The second goal came after left back Waylon Francis won the ball near midfield and found Jahn. The striker played a ball through to winger Niko Hansen and he rounded the MSU goalkeeper before slotting a shot home.

Six minutes later Francis picked up the ball near midfield again, but this time attacked on the dribble beating multiple players. His run took him centrally and he played a ball to Manneh at the top of the penalty box. The new signed fired a hard shot that slipped through the Michigan State keeper’s hands and into the net.

There was a rare scrimmage yellow card given to central midfielder Mohammed Abu just before halftime. A Spartan also picked up a caution in the second half, despite the game not being that contentious.

In the second half, Dilly Duka, who has spent the first few weeks of the season working back from injury, replaced Manneh. Duka lined up centrally while Hector Jimenez slid out wide right.

Both teams created chances in the second half, but neither could increase the score. Third-string Crew SC goalkeeper Logan Ketterer had to make a couple saves, including going back against his momentum to deny a deflected effort.

Thoughts from the scrimmage

  • Niko Hansen was one of the best attacking players on the field. The winger played in Justin Meram’s normal role, and looked similar to the starter. He was wide at times, but did a lot of his work centrally and was unafraid to take players on.
  • Kekuta Manneh looked good for just joining the team. Although he is clearly still learning his teammates and how they play, he showed some attacking flair and found the back of the net.
  • Connor Maloney and Waylon Francis looked good at either full back spots. Both players created dangerous chances when making run forward and worked back effectively. Francis looked like he had something to prove as he hopes to get back his starting spot.
  • Cristian Martinez looked pretty good playing the space Federico Higuain normally occupies. I would like to see the 20 year old be a bit more aggressive going forward, but he did attempt to spring teammates at times, although he did not often connect.
  • Center back Lalas Abubakar was easily the best defender on the field. His positioning and tackling ability are evident and it’s clear he’s beginning to understand the system better. He’s also a beast in the air and seems to find the ball whenever it’s near him.
  • With Hector Jimenez and Dilly Duka playing where Artur typically plays, the ball did not move the way the team would like. Neither of these players are natural center midfielders and it was clear they were out of position.