The Columbus Crew opened the 2020 MLS playoffs with a big 3-2 win against the New York Red Bulls on a dreary afternoon at MAPFRE Stadium on Saturday. While New York opened the scoring in the first half against the run of play, Columbus responded quickly and tied the game off of a Pedro Santos penalty kick. The Crew came out in an offensive blitz in the second half, with Darlington Nagbe scoring 22 seconds into the second 45 minutes. Gyasi Zardes sealed the game in the 68th minute, heading in a great cross from Derrick Etienne Jr. The Red Bulls managed to pull another goal back in stoppage time, but the Crew hung on for the victory.
With the win, Columbus advances to the Eastern Conference semifinals, where the club will face either rivals Toronto FC or newcomers Nashville SC. With that, here’s how the players performed in the win over New York:
Eloy Room (6.5) - The shot-stopper was not called upon often during the match, only recording two saves. While he couldn’t do much to stop either of New York’s goals, he made some big saves in the final minutes of the game to keep the visitors from a third and secure a Crew victory.
Harrison Afful (6) - It was a challenging match for the right back, stemming mainly from a bad clearance that directly led to the Red Bulls’ first goal. He was dispossessed on one occasion and committed two fouls. Afful improved in the second half and was able to focus on his defensive work, as Etienne took on most of the offensive responsibilities down the right side. While he only completed 56 percent of his overall passes, Afful had one key pass and seven interceptions.
Jonathan Mensah (6.5) - The captain put in a good performance and was active in making clearances and trying to win defensive aerials. He also recorded a shot on target, getting his head to a Crew corner kick. Mensah, along with the entire defense, struggled a bit in the closing minutes, as New York challenged for an equalizer. He was caught out on the second goal but overall had a good match with three clearances and three interceptions.
Josh Williams (6.5) - Williams put in a similar performance to Mensah, but was more active in the air, winning three aerial duels, including one on offense. He completed 21 of 29 passes and made no glaring mistakes on either of New York’s goals. He recorded four clearances and five interceptions.
Milton Valenzuela (7) - The left back put in a good showing on defense and was involved throughout the game. While he only completed 22 of his 39 passes, Valenzuela recorded one key pass, two clearances and three interceptions. He was certainly one of the more active members of the defense with his four successful tackles, the only ones across the backline.
Artur (7) - Artur was mainly preoccupied with defense during this game, recording a couple of interceptions and aerial duels. He completed 80 percent of his passes, with one key pass. While his work might not necessarily show up on the stat sheet, Artur had the highest rate of possession of any Crew player besides Santos. Artur often ended up with the ball after a defensive clearance and did well to guard it and maintain possession. He also had a great long ball to Diaz deep in stoppage time.
Darlington Nagbe (7.5) - As is to be expected, Nagbe completed 90 percent of his passes during the match, although he was dispossessed on two occasions. Much like Artur, he helped maintain possession off of defensive plays and was seemingly always in a good position to keep attacks going in the final third. He scored 22 seconds into the second half off of a great offensive sequence, helping to keep the Crew on the front foot for most of the second stanza.
Derrick Etienne Jr. (7.5) - Etienne had one of his best games in a Crew jersey, playing like a man with a chip on his shoulder. Against his former club, the winger recorded two key passes, three dribbles and two tackles. He had good overlap play with Santos and always tryed to get into the penalty box to make a play. He provided the perfect assist for Zardes’ goal to seal the match. Etienne was subbed off in the 81st minute for Diaz.
Lucas Zelarayan (8) - While he might not have scored a goal, Zelarayan was the offensive fulcrum in this game. He had four key passes and connected on three of his five corner kicks. He led the offensive sequence that started the second half, hitting the woodwork before Nagbe eventually scored. He also recorded a secondary assist on Zardes’ goal. He brought the necessary energy to keep the Columbus offense rolling.
Pedro Santos (8.5) - The winger was the best player of the first half and arguably the Crew’s Man of the Match. He had a great work rate on offense and defense, notably recording four successful tackles and four interceptions. He won and scored the penalty to tie the game and was ever-present on offense. He had some good overlap play with Etienne and had four shots, with two on target.
Gyasi Zardes (8.5) - The striker put in a great performance on both sides of the field, culminating with his golazo of a header in the 68th minute. He put in a good defensive performance with four clearances and an interception. Zardes was involved in 21 aerial duels, winning nine of them, the most of anyone on the field. He also recorded three key passes and had more touches than seven of New York’s starters, with 50. It was another stellar performance that showed how much work Zardes puts in on defense.
Luis Diaz (6) - The winger came on in the 81st minute for Etienne and slotted in well offensively. He drew a free kick late on and had a decent shot on goal deep in stoppage time that was saved.
Caleb Porter (8) - The Crew boss deployed a full-strength lineup that played on the front foot for most of the match. It seems pretty clear that the Black & Gold benefitted from the time off and are more organized on both sides of the field. Porter made the bold choice to make only one substitution, electing not to tinker with a successful on-field formula. It paid dividends and Columbus is now through to the next round.
Who was the Crew’s Man of the Match against RBNY?
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Derrick Etienne Jr.