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Game grades: Crew SC vs. Philadelphia Union

How did we rate the Black & Gold players in Wednesday’s win?

Sam Fahmi

Playing the team’s second game in four days, and with another game looming on Saturday, Columbus Crew SC head coach Gregg Berhalter was forced to rotate his lineup on Wednesday night in order to keep things fresh. He did that by putting out the youngest starting lineup — 23.8 years old — in Major League Soccer this season.

His team responded — albeit not with the prettiest of games — with a 1-0 win over the Philadelphia Union to extend the current unbeaten run to four matches.

Let’s take a look at how each of the players who featured for the Black & Gold performed:

Zack Steffen (8) - It’s the type of performances fans are becoming accustomed to with the young Columbus goalkeeper. Steffen was steady again, earning his fourth shutout of the year. He had to make three saves, including a crucial one in the 90th minute, and was comfortable coming off his line

Harrison Afful (7) - After being rested on Saturday, Afful returned to his starting right back role. He was his typical self, getting forward down the right-hand side and delivered a number of crosses into the penalty box. His best moment was late in the first half when he fired a left-footed shot off the post.

Jonathan Mensah (7) - Similar to Afful, Jonathan returned to the starting lineup after not playing on Saturday. Like his compatriot, Jonathan was also steady with one tackle and two clearances.

Lalas Abubakar (7) - There’s becoming a theme across the backline. The other Ghanaian center back was just as good as Jonathan, making one tackle and three clearances. Neither had much to do, as the Union was not much of an attacking threat.

Milton Valenzuela (7) - The young Argentinian left back continues to be strong in the defensive end of the field. He continues to get in good positions offensively but is still working on his finishing.

Cristian Martinez (7) - Martinez is always willing to take players on and get involved in the attacking third. He didn’t get credited for the assist on the goal, but if he doesn’t make the effort to get to the loose ball and cross it, there’s no goal.

Artur (6) - While he completed nearly 93 percent of his passes, Artur was not as involved as I would have liked. He had three tackles, but still is not living up to the form of a year ago.

Wil Trapp (8) - With such a young lineup on the field, Crew SC’s captain had to be even more of a leader than in a typical game. Trapp did that and was very good on the field, recording 81 touches and completing 88.6 percent of his passes.

Niko Hansen (5) - It was not a good night for the second-year winger. He struggled to be in the right spots on the field, often making similar runs as Afful. Hansen had a few chances, but only got one shot and it was not on target.

Luis Argudo (7) - In his first career start, the rookie filled big shoes as Crew SC’s No. 10. He was involved, with 53 touches, and was efficient, completing 83.3 percent of his passes, so all in all a good first start.

Gyasi Zardes (7) - The Crew SC striker scored the lone goal of the game, so he did his job. But the Black & Gold would like to have Zardes more involved in the game than he was on Wednesday.

Federico Higuain (7) - The normal No. 10 for Columbus came on in the 59th minute and helped inject some life into an offense that was relatively stale most of the game.

Mike Grella (6) - The winger came on with just nine minutes remaining, but still was able to get on the ball and go at his defenders. This is another step in his recovery from a knee injury that kept him out the better part of the last year.

Alex Crognale (N/A) - Coming on two minutes into stoppage time, the center back didn’t have enough time to impact the game.

Gregg Berhalter (7) - Given the congested scheduled, the head coach had to make changes to his lineup. While it wasn’t pretty, he got the resulted he wanted.