Columbus Crew SC finally got the bounces to go their way tonight in a stellar fashion against LA Galaxy. The 3-1 win was well earned as all phases of the pitch really put in a strong performance in a crucial moment for the club.
A controversial fifth straight loss to D.C. United last week could really have served as a make-or-break moment for this team. From this past week and this match, it looks like the squad has really used it as a rallying point. Whether that is the case longterm remains to be seen but Wednesday was certainly a good start to a turnaround.
Here is what we learned:
A night in the history books for Pipa
Federico Higuain became the Crew’s all-time leader in assists with a secondary assist on the opening goal from Gyasi Zardes. Pipa’s 62nd assist puts him above former Black & Gold coach and player Robert Warzycha in the club’s record book.
Pipa certainly came alive in this match, several times showing flashes of his younger self. Columbus’ second goal came on a great run onto a layoff from Zardes. Higuain sped past the Galaxy’s players and put a strike low into the back of the net.
His work rate and intensity in this match shows just how dangerous the Argentinian continues to be. After the match, head coach Caleb Porter commented on how Higuain’s one of the best professionals he’s ever worked with and how he is a rare guy who has quality and puts in the work day in and day out.
Different methods of attack
A frustrating theme from the past five matches was just how stagnant the Crew’s attack continued to be. Columbus seemed to rely too much on crossess and set pieces for offensive production while being lackluster in creating from the run of play. With only nine goals scored in 11 matches this season, something had to change for the Black & Gold.
Crew fans saw glimpses of those changes starting to take place against D.C. but the bounces (and refereeing) just didn’t go their way. In Wednesday’s match, the opposite was true. Columbus scored and put on offensive pressure in a variety of ways. From the onset, the wingers looked lively and were connecting in open space with Higuain and the rest of the midfield.
The passing and runs off the ball paid off in the 27th minute as a pass from Higuain found Robinho out on the wing whose cross found Zardes’ foot to put the Crew ahead. The second goal came on a beautiful build up as Zardes received the ball and laid off to Higuain who finished off a long dribble past the LA defense with a strike by the outstretched goalkeeper.
The final goal came from a bit of chaos. Zardes was tackled in the box but Hector Jimenez was right there to clean up the loose ball and put it in the back of the net against his former club.
Outside of the goals, the Black & Gold were lively in their passing and took advantage of their space, which is a welcomed change from performances that left a lot to be desired over the past month. As Porter continues to put more of his touch on the team, and with recent additions, I only see this trend continuing to improve.
Fullbacks had a standout performance
It goes without saying but Columbus has missed Harrison Afful. Since the right back suffered a broken jaw against Atlanta United, there has been a significant change on the attacking production we have seen from the fullbacks. Don’t get me wrong, Jimenez is a quality player and can certainly fill in when needed but the Black & Gold had yet to see a complete performance from both Jimenez and Waylon Francis in the same match.
That changed against Galaxy. Both players were active on both ends of the pitch. On defense, they helped the center backs keep Zlatan Ibrahimovic and the rest of the LA attack at an arm’s length. The only goal came from uncharacteristic set piece defending as the Crew was caught sleeping on a late corner.
On the offensive end, Jimenez was able to get his first goal of the season and Francis was also able to link up with Robinho on the wings throughout the match.
What stood out to you or what should we have learned from Wednesday’s match?