Columbus Crew SC kicked off the 2019 season and a new era of Black & Gold soccer on Saturday afternoon with a 1-1 draw with the New York Red Bulls. It was not the result the team wanted, facing largely New York’s second team and playing at home, but it was just Game 1 of a long Major League Soccer season.
On Sunday, Columbus’ second team was out on the field at the team’s training center in Obetz, getting minutes in a scrimmage against the University of Akron. The scrimmage was moved up two hours due to inclement weather coming in, but even that didn’t stop the snow from coming down as the Crew and the Zips faced off in what would be a 4-1 victory for the home side thanks to two goals and two assists from rookie forward JJ Williams.
It was a different look for the Black & Gold in the scrimmage than the 4-2-3-1 formation the starters used on Saturday. Head coach Caleb Porter deployed his reserve side in a 4-3-3.
#Crew96 starting lineup:— Patrick Murphy (@_Pat_Murphy) March 3, 2019
A 4-3-3 for the Black & Gold.
The game was less than two minutes in when Williams had the first chance of the contest. The striker got in behind Akron’s defense shortly after the kickoff, rounded the goalkeeper but rushed his shot and put it wide of the open net.
After the Zips had a couple of chances in front of goal but failed to convert, Columbus took control of the game. A series of nice quick passes ended with Williams finding fellow forward Patrick Mullins inside the penalty area. The veteran calmly dispatched the ball into the net for the early 1-0 lead.
The Black & Gold didn’t let their foot off the gas after taking the advantage. The Crew continued to look forward, creating chances. Williams got his first goal in the 33rd minute, coming from his wider position with the ball into the penalty area, before firing a shot into the far corner to give his side a 2-0 lead at the halftime break.
To start the second half, Jon Kempin replaced Bendik in goal.
Just over a minute into the second 45 minutes, Columbus had a 3-0 lead thanks to Williams again. The forward took a short pass from Mullins, drove into the attacking third of the field, beating one defender on the dribble and bodying off another before slotting the ball by the Zips’ goalkeeper with nice composure.
Things got contentious in the middle of the second half when defender Leonard Sohn when into a dangerous, two-footed tackle on Crew midfielder Ricardo Clark. This led to Clark giving some choice words to the Akron defender and a coming together of the two teams. After the referee calmed things down, play resumed but a few minutes later, Clark had to come out of the game.
Porter brought in winger Eddie Opoku, shifting his formation to a 4-4-2 with Eduardo Sosa dropping into central midfield alongside Luis Argudo and the second-year player moving out wide.
Just four minutes after coming into the game, Opoku found the back of the net. Williams found the winger rushing into the penalty box and Opoku tucked the ball home for the 4-0 lead.
In the 68th minute, the Crew brought on center back Alex Crognale for Robinho and shifted formation again, this time to a 3-5-2.
The Zips pulled one goal back in the 74th minute, but there was little concern of any epic comeback, as the Black & Gold kept possession over the final period of the game and closed things out for the exhibition win.
- Fans got a glimpse of Robinho on Saturday when he came on for Justin Meram in the second half but the winger got significantly more minutes in the scrimmage. While he was playing against college kids, Robinho was consistently beating his defenders on the dribble, with speed or using his strength. He hit the post at one point after going by three Akron would-be defenders.
- JJ Williams was undoubtably the star of the game. Porter said after the scrimmage that he liked what he saw from the forward. He also said that this performance is a carryover from preseason, where Williams put the ball in the net when he was on the field and that’s what earned him the spot on the bench against the Red Bulls over Mullins.
- Speaking of Williams, center back Josh Williams played his first 90 minutes since last season. The defender dealt with plantar fasciitis throughout the preseason and is finally healthy. Porter was glad to see him back on the field for the full match and liked the way he led the young group.
- Third-year fullback Connor Maloney played a good game at right back. He was up and down the right side and combined well with Williams and Opoku while also defending well.
- Porter said after the game that he was overall pleased with what he saw from his team. The head coach stated that he was happy to be able to use three different systems, but said he thought the final switch to the 3-5-2 led to the Akron goal as his team adjusted.
- Porter also said he wasn’t sure about Clark’s injury but seemed to think the midfielder would be fine after coming off in this game.