Columbus Crew SC opened its road slate this past weekend and came away with the team’s first win of 2019. The Black & Gold went into Gillette Stadium and defeated the New England Revolution 2-0. For whatever it’s worth, the Crew sit at the top of the Eastern Conference just two games into the Caleb Porter era.
While on the scoresheet the game seems like it was all roses and rainbows, it was much different on the pitch. Gyasi Zardes opened the scoring 26 minutes in and finished the game off in the final moments of the second half injury time. The Revolution will look back on this game massively disappointed, with both goals conceded coming from superb assists and a penalty kick of their own that was saved by none other than Zack Steffen early on in the second half.
Still, however, the Crew came in and played as the better team. That is very important in a league where it’s difficult to find results on the road. Let’s take a look at what we learned from the second game of the Black & Gold’s season.
Steffen’s value is still unmatched
Another game, another moment of brilliance for goalkeeper Zack Steffen. The shot-stopper added to his penalty kick resume, saving a (questionable) spot kick from New England’s Diego Fagundez in the 59th minute. Steffen also saved a direct free kick from Fagundez nine minutes earlier in the match, which was his first true save of the game. While he only made three stops on the day, he was crucial in keeping the Black & Gold in the driver’s seat to see out the game.
Steffen also recorded his first clean sheet of the season, the 23rd of his career in a Columbus uniform. While his value has been set around $9 million after his sale to Manchester City this summer, the Columbus keeper proved once again on Saturday what he means to this team and how much they’ll miss him when he’s gone.
The goals are coming from Zardes
Was there any question that Gyasi Zardes was going to be the team’s leading scorer again this season? If so, he put those questions to bed after his performance on Saturday. He was undoubtedly the catalyst after scoring a brace for his first two goals of the season.
Zardes’ first goal opened the scoring in the 26th minute, finishing a header after a world-class cross from Pedro Santos coming from the left side. His second goal put a knife in the hearts of the Revolution and their fans, finishing a low cross from Hector Jimenez in stoppage time
Sure, Zardes will have to continue this form and it’s only one game. It’s worth noting, however, that he only scored two goals on the road all of last season. Is this a sign of what’s to come from Gyasi? We think so.
The importance of the fullbacks
Throughout the offseason, Caleb Porter stressed the importance of getting fullbacks into offensive positions throughout games. It’s something that Week 1’s game against the New York Red Bulls lacked, and something Saturday’s game at least saw more of.
While their forward runs were spaced out, the overlapping fullbacks were crucial to Porter’s plan coming into the game. Waylon Francis and Harrison Afful had quite the defensive showings, too. The team’s second goal was a low cross from Hector Jimenez finding Zardes at the far post for an easy, game-finishing tap in. Jimenez only saw the field for four minutes after coming on for Santos but provided an instant impact.
Caleb Porter was always the right man for the job
The importance of coming out strong after an underwhelming home opener was crucial and Porter knew that. The head coach’s game plan in this game at New England compared to last week was simple: push the fullbacks higher up the sides and drop back the defensive midfielders. As noted, Francis and Afful played in much more offensive roles compared to Week 1, and midfielders Wil Trapp and Artur dropped back a bit more defensively.
Being able to make necessary adjustments for a side going on the road and coming off of a disappointing start says a lot about Porter. He’s willing to adjust and adapt however he has to in order to get this side results. It goes without saying that Porter is the right man to lead the charge in the post-Gregg Berhalter and new Crew era.
What were your takeaways from the match? Post your comments and thoughts down below.