It was a much brighter start for Crew SC than in recent games. The Black & Gold came out looking for the opening goal and were rewarded in the 11th minute.
Although New England is known as the counter-attacking team, it was Columbus who found a goal on the break. Left back Waylon Francis won the ball back for his team, found Federico Higuain who got the ball to Justin Meram. The winger played a streaking Ola Kamara in behind the defense and the forward did the rest, beating goalkeeper Cody Cropper with a curling effort.
Both teams had a chance to find the next goal in the opening half.
Higuain elected to unleash a curler from outside the penalty box in the 25th minute that went just wide of the net. Revolution forward Lee Nguyen also had an attempt from outside the 18-yard box. His effort was closer, but hit the crossbar and was cleared.
The two sides went into the halftime locker room with the Crew SC lead at only one but, like in the first half, the Black & Gold came out hot to start the second 45 minutes.
Just eight minutes into the second stanza, Higuain fed Kamara through, racing into the Revs box. The forward stepped on the ball and held up play, before laying the ball off for the racing Pipa who’s shot this time was on target and beat Cropper for the 2-0 advantage.
As the game reached its final chapter, the contention amped up. It began with a breakout of the back by Crew SC. Second half substitute Niko Hansen touched the ball by New England’s Je-Vaughn Watson. The defender was not letting the winger get by though, hitting him with a clothesline.
When only a yellow card to Watson was shown, Columbus head coach Gregg Berhalter became infuriated on the sideline, leading to his dismissal from the match with 12 minutes remaining.
Without their head coach on the sideline, the Crew SC players regrouped and managed to see out the remaining minutes to clinch another three points at home and the team’s third shutout of the season.
Regardless of what you think of the foul on Niko Hansen, Gregg Berhalter’s reaction to a rough challenge is something that’s going to play well with his team.
Any player wants a coach that’s going to go to bat for his players and Berhalter certainly did that after the Je-Vaughn Watson challenge. In his eyes, it was a dirty play that didn’t belong in soccer and could have injured his player and he expressed that. Although it led to him missing the final moments of the match, the players likely gained a little more respect for their boss.
It’s not often Crew SC fans get to see midfielder Wil Trapp in a more advanced role, but they did on Saturday night. With Nicolai Naess stepping up into a central midfield and playing where Trapp normally operates, the captain took on the No. 8 spot.
What was produced was one of Trapp’s best games, not just this season but in a black and gold uniform. The 24 year old controlled the game in the middle of the park, spraying passes around, moving all over the field and stepping in to make timely tackles.
It just goes to show the diversity of the midfielder and what he can do when asked to take on a different role.
Beauties from Higuain
One of Federico Higuain’s best games of the year was wasted last week when the Black & Gold dropped a 3-2 result at home. This week, Crew SC were able to hold things defensively and benefit from the midfield maestro.
After pundits around the league believed he might be done at 32 years old, Higuain is showing that there’s still plenty of magic left in his soccer legs. He was a part of the build up to the first goal — although he secondary assist was taken away — and not only scored the second, but played the through ball that step up Ola Kamara (can we get a secondary assist for that?).
When Pipa is playing at this level, Columbus’ offense will continue to be one of the best in the league. Right now, he doesn’t appear to be falling off or slowing down.
Celebrations over this win must be quick as Crew SC welcome Toronto FC back to MAPFRE Stadium on Wednesday. The Black & Gold already defeated TFC 2-1 at home just a few weeks ago, Toronto’s only loss of the season.
That match will be another benchmark for Columbus early in the year. The mid-week match kicks off at 7:30 p.m. ET.