Two Columbus Crew SC defenders, center back Lalas Abubakar and left back Milton Valenzuela, were named to the MLS Team of the Week the league announced on Monday. Both Abubakar and Valenzuela played a major part in Crew SC’s 0-0 draw with the Seattle Sounders on the road on Saturday afternoon.
Heading into a busy week, Columbus head coach Gregg Berhalter chose to rotate his lineup on Saturday, but both Abubakar and Valenzuela played from the start. Not long into the game however, the tactics were quickly flipped as Black & Gold winger Pedro Santos was shown a red card after only 15 minutes.
This meant the defensive responsibilities ramped us, as Berhalter brought on center back Alex Crognale and went to five across the backline.
Abubakar was active defensively for Crew SC, getting his head on a number of balls and helping the team preserve its third shutout — all coming on the road — of the young season. He finished the match with six interceptions and four clearances, including one to deny Sounders’ forward Will Bruin a goal.
Valenzuela was also a part of the shutout efforts, but remained involved in Columbus’ attacking push as well. Coming from the left side, the 19-year-old wing back had a chance to give the Black & Gold the lead late in the first half, failing to convert on a pass from forward Gyasi Zardes right in front of goal. The defender had six interceptions and four tackles in the match.
Abubakar is in his second season with Crew SC after he was selected fifth overall in the 2017 MLS SuperDraft. The young defender has seven appearances on the year — all starts — which matches his total from his rookie season.
Valenzuela is in his first season with the Black & Gold after he was acquired on loan from Newell’s Old Boys. The Young Designated Player has made 10 appearances for Columbus — nine starts — and has a goal and two assists this year.
This is the second appearance on the MLS Team of the Week for Abubakar who also received the honor after the Week 1 win over Toronto FC. Valenzuela has now made three Team of the Week appearances, also being recognized in Week 1 and Week 4 — when he scored his first goal against D.C. United.
The result moves Crew SC’s record to 4-3-3 in 2018. Columbus currently sits tied with the New York Red Bulls on 15 points, but New York has two games in hand.