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Game Grades: Crew vs. New York City FC

What we thought of the Crew’s individual performances in the playoff-clinching win against NYCFC.

New York City FC v Columbus Crew SC Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images

Sunday night was a monumental day for the Columbus Crew for multiple reasons. The Black & Gold beat New York City FC 3-1 to snap a four-match winless streak and ultimately qualify for a place in the 2020 MLS Cup playoffs. The team has overcome a lot of adversity over the last two weeks and put together some memorable performances.

Here is how the team performed in the win against NYCFC.

Starters

Andrew Tarbell (8.0) - When Tarbell was called upon, he delivered. The Columbus goalkeeper came up with five big saves as New York City started to gather offensive momentum. The goal he conceded was mainly due to poor marking from the defense on a corner kick. He also helped communicate and lead the Crew defense to one of the better performances in recent matches.

Harrison Afful (7.0) - The Ghanian right back once again put together an overall good performance for Columbus on Sunday night. He was incredibly active on that right side going forward offensively in the first half and then held his ground defensively with two tackles, three interceptions and three clearances. He also did not commit a foul for the 90 minutes he played.

Jonathan Mensah (7.5) - The captain was great once again, looking like his normal self at center back on Sunday night. He intercepted dangerous passes, managed a team-high nine clearances and defended well on set-pieces. It was an important night for Mensah to reinforce his presence as Columbus’ best defender.

Aboubacar Keita (7.0) - Overall, the game against City was better night for Keita as he got his second start in a row for the Black & Gold. He was excellent in his duels, winning four of five, and helped to block plenty of shots. Unfortunately, Keita was poor at marking on set pieces (again) and had a pass accuracy under 80 percent.

Milton Valenzuela (6.5) - Valenzuela saw some of the ball in the win but didn’t have too much activity offensively in the first 30 minutes of the game since a majority of the attack came from the right side with Afful and Etienne. Defensively, Valenzuela did handled his business with three tackles and two interceptions.

Artur (9.0) - It was pretty easy to say that Artur was the man of the match in the win. He scored his first MLS regular season goal by being at the right place at the right time and slotting one past Sean Johnson with ease. Put that together with six tackles, 85 percent pass accuracy with 61 touches and Artur put a great game under his belt.

Aidan Morris (7.5) - The youngster showed once again why he is being selected to start with Darlington Nagbe out with injury. Morris has tenacity and always is going after the ball. More often than not, he gets the ball and executes good transition from the midfield to the attack. The big mistake of the night was not staying goal-side of Valentin Castellanos on the corner kick that NYCFC scored.

Derrick Etienne Jr. (8.0) - Etienne got the nod with his speed down the right side of Columbus’ midfield and was great in the 88 minutes he played. In the first half, he succeeded in patiently waiting on the NYCFC backline to make precise runs inside and generate crosses to Gyasi Zardes. In the second half, Etienne helped Afful defend that side as NYCFC pushed for an equalizer.

Pedro Santos (8.5) - The Portuguese midfielder just cannot be stopped with another goal on Sunday night. It puts Santos up to 13 goal contributions this season with 10 of those coming since September, the most of any MLS player in that span. He continued to roam as the No. 10 in whatever space he had, helped create chances and pushed the tempo. The team awaits word on his injury status after leaving the match early but Porter believed it “wasn’t too serious.”

Emmanuel Boateng (6.5) - Another start for Boateng and he was better than against FC Cincinnati. Similar to Valenzuela, he didn’t get too many touches on the left side but off the field, but consistently looked for through balls cause he knew he could outpace the NYCFC defenders. In the moments he got passes, he blazed past the defenders and forced fouls or saves from Sean Johnson.

Gyasi Zardes (7.5) - Zardes got himself a goal off a rebound from another missed penalty kick, something the Crew needs to desperately work on. It was a typical Zardes game with smart runs to the post in the penalty box for crosses and good hold-up play in the second half. He was a big part of the Black & Gold’s penalty kick, winning the ball and waiting for Artur to make a run, before a well-placed pass.

Substitutes

Youness Mokhtar (6.0) - Mokhtar had to come on earlier than expected when Santos injured his hip and the Moroccan played the No. 10 role for about 25 minutes. He had a couple of open chances to really put the game to bed but didn’t convert on them.

Luis Diaz (6.0) - Diaz had a mixture of really good moments off the bench and some really dangerous moments. The good was his pace down the right sideline to get easy passes and waste time or get an opportunity. The bad was his dangerous back passes to Afful that NYCFC actually got a hold off to give the visitors easier chances to get an equalizer.

Hector Jimenez (N/A) - Jimenez came on in the 88th minute and didn’t do enough to really warrant much of a grade.

Head Coach

Caleb Porter (8.5) - Porter has said it’s been a challenging time for his team with everything happening with COVID-19 tests and a poor run of form. The tactic to go after New York City in the first 30 minutes was smart to get this team its confidence back and the lineup he picked was perfect to combat NYCFC’s physical style of play. Porter said those 30 minutes might have been the best all season and because of that, the Black & Gold are going to the MLS Cup playoffs.