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Game Grades: Crew vs. FC Cincinnati

What we thought of the Crew’s individual performances in the loss to Cincinnati.

Columbus Crew SC v FC Cincinnati Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

For the first time in Major League Soccer play, the Columbus Crew lost to FC Cincinnati on Wednesday night. In the fourth match between the two in 2020, the Black & Gold fell 2-1 to their orange and blue rivals off a debatable penalty kick and a header from a free kick. The loss extends Crew’s winless run to four consecutive games before Sunday’s home encounter with New York City FC.

Here is how the team performed in Wednesday’s loss to the other team from Ohio.

Starters

Andrew Tarbell (5.5) - In his second consecutive start in goal, Tarbell didn’t have a lot to do, making just one save all game. The times he had to face shots, he wasn’t able to make the saves with a wrong guess on the Yuya Kubo penalty and no way of saving the Nick Hagglund header. The biggest moment of the game for Tarbell was conceding the penalty, which will be discussed further for weeks to come.

Harrison Afful (6.5) - Afful put in a decent 90-minute performance considering the result. He was one of three Crew players with a pass accuracy above 80 percent, he had the most tackles with eight and the most interceptions with nine. Plus, Afful was a healthy part of the attack in the second half push for an equalizer with two shots.

Jonathan Mensah (6.5) - The Crew captain improved on his performance a week ago against the Montreal Impact. He had the best pass success among the starters at nearly 90 percent and got in front of Cincinnati attempts throughout a first half where the home side outshot Columbus nine to one. Mensah also won aerial duels and covered for Keita quite a bit in the first 45 minutes.

Aboubacar Keita (5) - It was not a game to remember for the young center back. Keita didn’t connect passes and was caught out of position many times in the first half, allowing FC Cincinnati to use space to create chances. He also didn’t get very high off the groun on the free kick goal, leaving Hagglund unopposed for a relatively easy header. Keita was subbed off in the 58th minute, something rarely to happen to a center back who is healthy.

Milton Valenzuela (6) - The Argentine left back didn’t have a lot of action in the match with very little of the attack coming from the left side of the field and not much to do defensively. Valenzuela had just two tackles and just two offensive dribbles to go along with some instances of poor control on the turf at Nippert Stadium.

Artur (6.5) - For the 90 minutes he played, Artur was simply fine. The Brazilian completed a good percentage of his passes and was an important figure for Columbus in the center of the park with 73 touches. Artur wasn’t able to turn many of those touches into good opportunities but the transition play started to develop in the second half because of Artur.

Fatai Alashe (5.5) - In his return to the starting lineup, Alashe wasn’t very effective defensively as fans are used to seeing. There was almost no disruption from him on the Cincinnati midfielders who had plenty of time to pass to the wings from the middle of the field. Another instance, like Keita, where getting subbed off in the 58th minute was a sign of a bad night.

Luis Diaz (5) - With speed being something Crew wanted to utilized against Cincinnati, Diaz was someone Columbus went to in order to get opportunities to score. Diaz didn’t do anything going forward with no dribbles, shots or key passes in the opponent’s half. He didn’t see the ball and was also one of those taken off at the 58-minute mark.

Pedro Santos (6.5) - Once again, Santos showed the most urgency to run at defenders with Crew on the back foot. The Portuguese sprinted forward to try and catch the Cincy defenders off guard, which led to the penalty kick in the first half. Santos stepped up and converted the first Columbus penalty of 2020 and continued his scoring run of late.

Emmanuel Boateng (5) - For the first time this season, Boateng got the start with the idea of using speed against a depleted Cincy backline. Similar to Diaz, Boateng had little to no effect in the 45 minutes he played with no dribbles, shots or key passes in his first half outing. The two starting wingers combined for just 17 passes, zero shots and zero key passes.

Gyasi Zardes (5) - With the wingers not getting much of the ball to create, it leaves Zardes in a position with little to do. The Crew striker had one shot in the whole game and didn’t have the chance to make those runs into space he is known for. Passing wasn’t a shining spot for Zardes either, with just seven completed passes on 14 attempts.

Substitutes

Youness Mokhtar (6) - Mokhtar came on the pitch right when the second half started and did have more of an effect than either Boateng or Diaz. Mokhtar helped to force fouls near the box for set piece opportunities throughout the second half, plus he got five crosses off, which is the same amount Diaz and Boateng had combined.

Aidan Morris (6.5) - Another game where Morris put in a good shift. Head coach Caleb Porter said after the game “he was one of the best players in the game.” In the 32 minutes he played, Morris was aggressive, completing most of his passes and putting in good tackled to win possession. The youngster has had three consecutive good performances and likely is higher up in the midfield depth chart after these two weeks.

Josh Williams (6) - After coming on for Keita, Williams didn’t have much to deal with from the Cincinnati offensive in that second half. FC Cincy was content to absorb pressure with the 2-1 lead but Williams helped move the ball up the field with a good pass success rate and communication with the backline.

Derrick Etienne Jr. (5.5) - Etienne was also brought on in the 58th minute alongside Morris and Williams. Etienne wasn’t very effective in his time on the pitch with very little offensive creativity, as he generated no key passes or dribbles in the offensive third.

Fanendo Adi (5) - Once again, Adi was brought on very late for a possibility of a last-second goal that didn’t come. In those last few minutes of the game, Santos put some good corners near the six-yard box that Aid is expected to go for with his head. He wasn’t able to and his first Columbus goal still eludes him.

Head Coach

Caleb Porter (5) - Porter himself said he needs to be better after the loss with his team having a frantic start to the game. He took responsibility for the team’s poor defensive performance and said he will “look at himself first” to try and get confidence and morale back up for his guys. He apologized to the supporters for the performance and understands the team was outplayed tactically and physically.