Wednesday night was the rekindling of an old Major League Soccer rivalry, as Columbus Crew SC took a jaunt to battle the Chicago Fire. Both teams came into the match desperate for points. In the end, it was a split, as the teams battled to a 2-2 draw.
The match had its ups and downs, so let’s see how the players graded out in Bridgeview:
Joe Bendik (6) – If things go to plan, this may be Bendik’s last start for a while, as Eloy Room may make his debut versus the Montreal Impact this weekend. While the Fire did score two, overall Bendik played well. He started things off with a beautiful save off of a set piece header, tipping it over the crossbar. Chicago’s first goal was due to the defense falling asleep at the wheel. Bendik was credited with four saves on the night.
Hector Jimenez (5.5) – The aspect of Jimenz’s game that any coach loves, is that you know what you are going to get from him game after game. He made runs up the left flank and was sound defensively. While not flashy or statistically impactful, he does his job effectively and will always bring a high work rate.
Aboubacar Keita (5) – The 19-year-old center back earned his second career start. In this match, however, the Homegrown player looked skittish. He was caught out of position numerous times and it is clear he is still learning how to be consistently successful at this level of play. Going through peaks and valleys will be the case for any young player, so downtimes in play are to be expected.
Alex Crognale (5) – If head coach Caleb Porter had his way, I am not sure Crognale would have seen the field again this season after his repeated struggles versus Seattle Sounders two weeks ago. Injuries have piled up at the center back position, so Crognale’s number was called. His game Wednesday didn’t generate any noteworthy plays or statistics, outside of committing one foul. Often times, a center back having a quiet night is a good night. This was most certainly the case for Crognale.
Harrison Afful (5) – Overall, it was an atypical game for the Ghanaian, as Afful was mediocre on the night with minimal offensive presence and minimal defensive impact. Afful worked up and down the right flank offensively but was ultimately ineffective. He had several sloppy touches which led to turnovers.
Wil Trapp (4.5) – It was a mediocre outing for the team’s captain, as Trapp struggled to keep the midfield connected to the attacking and defensive lines. He was caught ball watching on the first Fire goal, failing to check over his shoulder prior to the pass, leaving Djordje Mihailovic wide open for an uncontested shot. Trapp did have a phenomenally accurate long diagonal ball that switched the Crew’s point of attack in extra time, dropping the pass directly on the foot of Luis Diaz. Beyond that, the No. 6 was largely ineffective or invisible on the night.
Ricardo Clark (4.5) – The veteran also struggled. The holding-midfield duo of Clark and Trapp were out of position throughout the match and seemed to lack chemistry of who should be stepping and who should be dropping in various instances. Clark was caught ball chasing on the aforementioned first Fire goal. He did show more hustle and effort in the second half, before exiting in the 79th minute.
Luis Argudo (6.5) – In his fourth start in five matches, Argudo continued to show a high work rate and tenacity on both sides of the ball. Argudo sent in a beautiful through ball to David Accam that failed to lead to a goal, but it showed true capability from the New York native. Argudo earned his first MLS assist on the Crew’s first goal of the evening, as he tracked down a beautiful through ball from Eduardo Sosa and slotted a perfect cross to an on-running Zardes, who scored the tap in. It wasn’t all roses for Argudo, as he did have multiple errant touches which led to turnovers. At times, the young attacker forced the issue with the ball, but overall his play over the last month has been a positive for the club. When Sosa was subbed out, Luis showed his versatility as he moved from the wing to a central midfield role.
David Accam (5.5) – The speedy winger made his way back after recuperating from a minor hamstring tweak. His pace was on display in the first half as he created multiple scoring opportunities, none leading to goals, but he kept the Fire defense on their heels. He was subbed out in the 54th minute after registering one shot on goal and several chances created.
Eduardo Sosa (6.5) – Sosa slid into the No. 10 role in this match and showed flashes of his ability to create and distribute. Inexplicably, he was called for an erroneous foul early after he put the ball in the net. On the Crew’s first goal, he was credited with a well-earned assist. He did a beautiful job to even gain possession with a hard turn on Fabian Herbers, a determined dribble directly at the Fire defense, then slotted a great through ball to Argudo who sent it to Zardes for the finish. Sosa did have moments where he held onto the ball too long offensively and defensively committed three fouls. He finished with two shots on goal and an assist.
Gyasi Zardes (7) – The immediate reaction and exuberance on Zardes’ face after scoring the first Crew goal of the evening was a microcosm of the team’s overall feeling. Zardes nearly scored prior, with an attempted header on goal in the first half off a corner kick. It took a save from Fire goalkeeper, Kenneth Kronholm to keep the ball from finding the twine. Zardes accumulated three shots and a goal. He and Romario Williams were quite the strike partnership when the newcomer joined Zardes in the 79th minute.
Pedro Santos (4) – If the season ended today, hands down Santos would be the team’s season MVP. Wednesday night, however, may have been his most lackluster performance this year. He came on as a sub for David Accam in the 54th minute and had several turnovers, errant passes and was ineffective with the ball at his feet. I am sure a starting assignment this Saturday will get the Portuguese in a groove again.
Luis Diaz (8) – The recent Crew acquisition made his debut in the 65th minute and showed his pace immediately, creating a chance that nearly led to an own-goal by Chicago. Diaz sent in a picture-perfect cross from the right side, which dropped to the head of fellow recent acquisition, Romario Williams for the game-tying goal. Diaz showed an ability and desire to take defenders on one-v-one. His entrance into the match was an absolute game-changer for Columbus.
Romario Williams (8.5) – You couldn’t have asked for much more out of an 11-minute debut. Williams played as a post-up man in and around the 18-yard box, receiving the ball, holding defenders off and dishing to teammates. His 90th-minute goal was a superbly timed run and perfect finish. If the remainder of his season parallel’s anything close to his debut, he will most certainly accomplish that goal.
Caleb Porter (6.5) – Porter and his staff reverted back to the team’s more common 4-3-2-1 in Chicago and we saw a more attack-oriented performance. The first 25 minutes of the match was mostly controlled by Columbus, but a 28th-minute goal led to a sloppy conclusion to the opening half. The Crew came out with fervor in the second half, which led to an early goal. Porter’s late-game switch to two forwards up top undoubtedly played a part in the Crew tying the match. It has become taboo in global soccer nowadays to play the classic 4-4-2 formation, but perhaps this is a scheme Porter will consider moving forward, even if in short bursts like we saw on Wednesday.