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What We Learned: Crew vs. New York City FC

Here are our main takeaways from the team’s first win in five matches.

MLS: New York City FC at Columbus Crew SC Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

The Columbus Crew returned to winning ways in great fashion as the Black & Gold secured a 3-1 victory against New York City FC at MAPFRE Stadium to put an end to the team’s four-match winless streak. The Crew’s first positive result in five matches was built upon a smart game plan from head coach Caleb Porter and great execution from the players, particularly the midfielders

Here are some of our main takeaways from the match:

The bad run is over

Porter said that this result was more than a win. The Crew needed a good performance to put the terrible last week in the past, so it’s fair to assume he got just what he was looking for. It wasn’t perfect, as the coach said it wouldn’t be, but the Black & Gold had more ups than downs over the 90 minutes at MAPFRE Stadium.

There was still some reason for concern and some moments in which the team could have done better, but overall it was a much better showing than the team had in the last few matches and hopefully the confidence boost will lead to improved performances for the remainder of the regular season.

Porter’s master move

Part of the credit for the win and the improved performance needs to go to Porter, who designed a game plan that put Columbus in a great spot to win the game. The coach made the unexpected decision of starting Derrick Etienne Jr. and Emmanuel Boateng on the wings and his decision paid off.

With the speedy wingers, the Crew managed to explore the space behind NYCFC’s fullbacks Anton Tinnerholm and Ronald Matarrita, who are naturally offensive-minded and don’t have great coverage from their teammates. Etienne, in particular, gave Matarrita a hard time and created several chances from the right, including the one that ended with Pedro Santos’ goal.

A strong performance from the midfielders

Much of Columbus’ improved performance was because of the great matches the team’s midfielders had against NYCFC. Santos and Artur obviously scored the team’s goals and the Brazilian also generated the penalty kick, but their contributions and Aidan Morris’ went far beyond that.

Artur and Morris had a lot of work on the defensive side of the game, constantly disrupting the opponents’ attacks — they combined for 12 tackles. Santos, on the other hand, had probably his best performance at the No. 10 spot this season as he not only scored, but distributed the ball well, consistently finding Etienne and Boateng in good spots before he was subbed off.

Strong competition to come on the wings

Etienne and Boateng’s good performances are expected to lead to intense competition for the Crew’s starting wing positions from now until the end of the season. Luis Diaz and Youness Mokhtar, who have both been starters of late, will certainly put up a good fight and when Santos moves back to the right and Lucas Zelarayan returns there will be only spot up for grabs.

New signing Krisztian Nemeth was part of the team’s match day roster for the first time since his arrival and should be another option to Porter due to his ability to play on the left after he gets settled with the team.