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Six Thought Box: Columbus Crew SC keep rolling

Some thoughts on the Black & Gold extending the unbeaten run to seven games.

MLS: New York Red Bulls at Columbus Crew SC Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

Columbus Crew SC rolled to another win with a 3-2 result over the New York Red Bulls. It made a return to the playoffs in 2017 all but certain.

The peerless Pipa

The last time a Crew SC player tallied three assists in a game, an Argentine playmaker was helping the team to a trophy. Federico Higuain joined exclusive company on Saturday night.

After struggling this season, his dead ball prowess was on full display. He bent in the perfect ball to the far side of the scrum to a free Jonathan Mensah and his corner was again spot on to find Josh Williams in a crowd. Higuain has struggled with injuries over the past couple of years, but when he plays, he’s magic on the ball.

Set piece danger

Pipa’s significant contribution was noted above, but Columbus finally has some weapons on the backline. Crew SC had quite a drought of defenders scoring with center backs failing to do so in either 2015 or 2016, but three have found the net this season when Williams joined Jonathan and Lalas Abubakar on the scoring list Saturday.

The Black & Gold’s addition of Santos added more firepower on the dead-ball delivery, but now the team has several center backs capable of creating havoc in opponents’ penalty area. It’s a handy option to have, especially for road games, where Crew SC finishes the season with back-to-back trips, and likely will have multiple road games to if a deep playoff run in the offing.

Highest paid defender

Not Jonathan, but Pedro Santos. The Crew SC’s highest priced import showed some more flashes on offense. He had two passes that led to shots, three shots of his own and interchanged well, but it may have been overshadowed by his play on defense.

Santos recorded two tackles, two interceptions, a block, a clearance and three recoveries over 90 minutes. He harried New York’s Tyler Adams and Kemar Lawrence into ineffectiveness.

Fans would prefer to see more offensive highlights, but Santos is making a big impact. It was one of the best defensive efforts from a Columbus winger in recent memory.

The other highest paid defender

Jonathan Mensah has had an up and down first season in Black & Gold. He’s made some poor decisions that have lead directly to goals throughout 2017.

There was another error that led to a goal in this game when he was a little overaggressive on his tackle for the penalty kick. Otherwise, he had a pretty strong game.

Jonathan often read plays that stopped chances before things got dangerous. He tallied one tackle, one interception, four recoveries and six clearances. The dangerous Bradley Wright-Phillips only had a single shot, a goal after a broken defensive clearance.

A lesson learned

Columbus learned a painful lesson the hard way against the Vancouver Whitecaps last week: the game isn’t over until the referee blows the whistle.

There was no repeat of that type of performance as Crew SC finished this contest strong. From the 72nd minute on, the home side held the Red Bulls without a shot. The defense played so impressively that the visitors didn’t even have a pass in the penalty box and had a mere four passes in the final third when New York scored its penalty to cut the deficit to one. The Columbus defense tightened up and grabbed all three points.

Fortress MAPFRE

11 wins, three losses, two ties and a +15 goal differential. This Crew SC team delivers at MAPFRE Stadium.

It’s the home performance, where the team averages 2.18 points per game, that have made this team almost certainly a playoff team.

Unfortunately, Crew SC is on track to be traveling the first round of the playoffs where the club is a less potent 3-9-3.

Those home losses, by the way? Toronto, NYCFC, and Atlanta. The current top three in the Eastern Conference by points per game.

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