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Crew opens preseason with scoreless draw against Vissel Kobe

In the first game with Caleb Porter at the helm, the Black & Gold tied with the Japanese in Irvine.

MLS: Vissel Kobe at Columbus Crew Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Columbus Crew SC’s first preseason friendly of 2019 ended in a scoreless draw as the Black & Gold and Japanese side Vissel Kobe failed to find the back of the net at the Championship Soccer Stadium in Irvine, California, on Monday night. It was the first time head coach Caleb Porter led the Crew in a match.

Porter was able to take positives of the game and he especially highlighted the defensive efficiency of the Crew, which held World Cup winners David Villa, Lucas Podolski and Andres Iniesta all scoreless for 70 minutes, as the match was played in two halves of 35 minutes each.

“It’s great to get guys to run out,” Porter said. “Obviously we’re five days into preseason, so there’s a lot to work on, but I thought there were a ton of positives in the match. We were playing a very good team in Vissel Kobe with some world-class players in David Villa, Iniesta and Podolski. I thought it was a good test for us, it was a good challenge. The positives are that we got through it healthy, we were able to manage the physical minutes and tactically we were very good defensively. I thought we had a few moments forward as well, when we could have scored a goal to win the game. But overall, I think it was a very good first test for us.”

Porter kept the same backbone used by his predecessor Gregg Berhalter and started the game with nearly the same lineup from last season, with Jon Kempin, Ricardo Clark and Patrick Mullins replacing Zack Steffen, captain Wil Trapp and Gyasi Zardes, who are all with the U.S. National Team. Defender Josh Williams, who was dealing with plantar fasciitis last week also didn’t play, with Gaston Sauro taking his spot.

The first half lineup featured Kempin; Harrison Afful, Jonathan Mensah, Sauro, Milton Valenzuela; Clark, Artur; Pedro Santos, Federico Higuain, Justin Meram; Mullins.

In the second half, Porter sent all new faces on to the field, including recent additions Joe Bendik and Robinho and SuperDraft pick JJ Williams. The second half lineup also included Danish trialist Kasper Sloth, who played in the center of midfield alongside Luis Argudo. The team lined up with Bendik; Connor Maloney, Alex Crognale, Lalas Abubakar, Hector Jimenez; Argudo, Sloth; Edward Opoku, Sebastian Berhalter, Robinho; Williams.

The Black & Gold remain in California for another week and have a couple of other friendlies scheduled. Columbus will play Mexican side Club Tijuana in Chula Vista on Thursday, January 31, in a closed-door scrimmage and Major League Soccer rivals Los Angeles Football Club on Monday at the Banc of California Stadium, in LA.