For the second and final time this season, Columbus Crew SC and the New England Revolution met on the pitch. For the second time, the Black & Gold came away victors. After a 2-0 win at Gillette Stadium in Week 2, Columbus defeated the Revs 1-0 on Saturday night in front of 10,942 of their loyal supporters.
The game started slowly with the Revolution putting pressure up top and the Crew attempting to figure out how to play its style and build out of the back. This led to a lot of play in the home side’s defensive end but the Columbus dam managed not to break.
Zack Steffen had to make an important save in the 11th minute on a long-range shot from Revs defender Jalil Anibaba. The center back, pushed high up the field, latched on to a lofted clearance and fired a shot that forced Steffen to dive to his right and keep the ball out of the bottom corner of the goal.
The Crew had the team’s best chance of the early going just four minutes later. With time to pick up his head while on the ball, winger Pedro Santos played a lofted pass over the New England backline, finding playmaker Federico Higuain. The attacking midfielder went around Revolution goalkeeper Cody Cropper but his shot from a tight angle was blocked near the line by Michael Mancienne.
There was a bit of controversy in the 20th minute when Columbus forward Gyasi Zardes went racing after a ball behind the New England defense. Cropper came rushing out of his penalty box and got to the ball first but appeared to make contact with his hand. No call was made.
In the 42nd minute, the Black & Gold opened the scoring, once again getting a goal from a center back. This time it was Josh Williams making a near post run and heading home a Federico Higuain free kick. The Revs argued for offside but didn’t not win that argument with no Video Assistant Review being needed.
Just three minutes after halftime, the Crew almost got another goal from a central defender. This time off a corner kick, Jonathan Mensah found himself free in the penalty box and headed a shot on goal that was cleared off the line by a well-placed Scott Caldwell.
New England had a penalty kick claim in the 56th minute. After miscommunication from Williams and Steffen led to the goalkeeper hesitating to come to get a ball rolling in the penalty box, Revs forward Juan Fernando Caicedo touched the ball by the Columbus goalkeeper and appeared to be taken down but center referee Rubiel Vazquez indicated for the attacker to get up and no call was given.
Any comeback attempt for the visitors became more difficult in the 64th when Mancienne came in on a wild sliding tackle near midfield, sending Higuain flying through the air. Vazquez allowed the play to continue with the Black & Gold continuing to attack, but once the play stopped, he showed the Revolution defender his second yellow card, equaling a red card and sending him for an early shower.
In the 82nd minute, the Crew had the team’s best chance to double the lead courtesy of Zardes. Fullback Hector Jimenez, deputizing for the injured Harrison Afful who broke his jaw last week, found Zardes on a cross right near the penalty spot. The forward’s headed effort though missed the goal entirely.
Some good defending and timely possession was enough to see out the victory, the team’s fourth of the year, all coming in shutout fashion.
More Higuain magic
In his eighth season with the Crew, Federico Higuain has done plenty of special things. The playmaker has been that and more for the Black & Gold since he arrived in Columbus in 2012. On Saturday, the attacking midfielder joined elite Black & Gold company with his assist to Williams in the 42nd minute.
With the ball that found the head of the center back, Pipa recorded his 61st assist with the club, tying him with another club legend, Robert Warzycha, for the most all-time. It seems likely that Higuain will record at least one more assist this season, putting him at the top of the Crew’s list.
Center back forwards?
To start the 2019 season, Columbus has not been an offensive juggernaut. Entering Saturday’s game, the Black & Gold had scored just six goals through five matches. Two of those goals came from center back Gaston Sauro, one in the season opener against the New York Red Bulls and the other in the 1-0 win against FC Dallas.
With Josh Williams’ goal on Saturday, three of the team’s seven finishes have been recorded by center backs, and all three have come on set pieces. Maybe head coach Caleb Porter will try putting his defenders up top going forward?
The Black & Gold head back on the road next week, traveling to Stade Saputo to take on the Montreal Impact. That game will kick off at 1 p.m. ET on April 13.