Another week and another big win for Columbus Crew SC, who have begun the 2018 Major League Soccer season on fire.
The Black & Gold defeated D.C. United 3-1 on Saturday night to climb back up to the top of the MLS and Eastern Conference standings — tied on 10 points with New York City FC. Crew SC has now gone 14 regular season MLS matches without a loss, dating back to Aug. 5 of last year.
While Columbus plays a team-oriented style, enough cannot be said about a number of individuals that played an important part in the Black & Gold’s victory over the weekend. Five members of Crew SC were rewarded on Monday when the league announced the MLS Team of the Week.
Left back Milton Valenzuela opened the scoring for Crew SC against United, rushing forward to get on the end of a cross and finish for his first professional goal. The defender was also solid on the other side of the ball, helping to prevent D.C. from creating too many chances.
Federico Higuain adds to his special last few days with this honor. With his assist to midfielder Ricardo Clark in the 40th minute, Higuain became the first member of the Black & Gold to reach the 50 goal, 50 assist club. He then added another helper two minutes later on Pedro Santos’ insurance goal.
Higuain also now as the most game-winning assists in Crew SC history.
Cristian Martinez equaled Higuain’s production on the night, also providing two assist. The first came on Valenzuela’s goal, when the winger cut the ball back from out wide right to find the left back open in the penalty area. His second came on a run down the left flank when he beat a defender to find Santos at the back post.
Head coach Gregg Berhalter is the coach of the week. For the first time in 2018, Berhalter was forced to change his lineup, missing two key pieces in midfielder and captain Wil Trapp and goalkeeper Zack Steffen who are both away with the U.S. Men’s National Team.
Berhalter elected to go with Clark to replace Trapp and Jon Kempin in goal. While it took Clark some time to settle in, the veteran performed well in his first start with Crew SC, scoring the game-winning goal. Kempin did allow a goal, but came up big to deny Darren Mattocks a couple of times. These players both justified Berhalter’s decision to start him.
The Columbus head coach also made the decision to pull out center back Lalas Abubakar at the half. The Ghanian received an early yellow card and arguably could have been shown a second on a tackle that was not called just before Crew SC’s third goal. His replacement, Josh Williams, performed well over the final 45 minutes.
Santos, who is on the Team of the Week bench, scored his first for the Black & Gold. This was weight off his shoulders, after the winger had gone 18 games, including playoffs, without finding the back of the net.
Crew SC will begin training on Tuesday in preparation for Saturday’s match with the Vancouver Whitecaps. That game kicks off at 3 p.m. ET.