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Game grades: Crew vs. Atlanta United

How those involved in the Black & Gold’s win performed.

MLS: Atlanta United at Columbus Crew SC Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

The Columbus Crew concluded the 2020 Major League Soccer regular season with an important 2-1 Decision Day win against Atlanta United at MAPFRE Stadium on Sunday afternoon. The win, in combination with a surprising Orlando City SC loss to Nashville SC, gave the Crew a third-place finish in the Eastern Conference standings and guaranteed a home game in the MLS Cup playoffs in the first round against the New York Red Bulls.

Before we begin looking ahead, let’s take a look back at how each of the individuals involved in the victory against Atlanta performed.

Starters

Eloy Room (6) - It was a steady performance from the Black & Gold goalkeeper, who did not have to do too much on the night. He was initially called for a foul that resulted in a penalty kick but VAR quickly reversed that decision. Room made two saves on three shots on target and the only goal he allowed was a rightfully called penalty kick.

Harrison Afful (7) - Afful put together the type of performance Columbus expects out of the Ghanian right back. He was active on the right flank, delivering two crosses, 43 passes and three long balls but was not overly accurate on any of his attempts. Afful was solid for the Crew defensively with four clearances, two tackles, two interceptions and one blocked shot.

Jonathan Mensah (7) - After multiple rough games, likely due to fatigue of playing every minute of the MLS regular season, Jonathan looked more himself on Sunday. While the Black & Gold center back did have a careless pass early and was beaten by Jon Gallagher on the play that initially resulted in the penalty kick for Atlanta, he recovered to lead the team with nine clearances and two blocked shots.

Josh Williams (6.5) - Making his first appearance in nearly a month after a four-game suspension, Williams returned to the Columbus starting 11 to partner Jonathan at center back. His two tackles and two clearances summed up a mostly quiet night, which is typically a good thing for a defender.

Milton Valenzuela (6) - The Crew’s left back had an up-and-down outing against United. He started brightly, playing the pass that led to the opening goal, but wasn’t involved much offensively after that. Defensively, Valenzuela made just one tackle and committed the foul that led to Atlanta’s penalty kick and lone goal.

Darlington Nagbe (6.5) - It appears Nagbe is finally beginning to find his rhythm again after missing eight games with a knee injury. The central midfielder completed 95.6 percent of his passes, including one key pass and his calm and collected nature on the ball was infectious. Nagbe did pick up a late yellow card, however.

Artur (7.5) - If there’s an MVP for the last several games for the Black & Gold, it is Artur. The Brazilian attempted a team-high 56 passes, completing 92.9 percent of them and connected on three of his five long balls. He had a very well-placed ball to spring Zardes for the game-winning goal. Once again, Artur was all over the field, making three tackles and one interception.

Derrick Etienne Jr. (7) - In the first half, Etienne was very active for Columbus, getting on the ball frequently as he tucked inside from his winger position more than normal and had a shot from outside the 18-yard box deflected over the goal. Etienne did a good job drawing fouls but was the first Crew substitute in the 69th minute as his game began to fade.

Lucas Zelarayan (8) - Welcome back, Zelarayan. Like Nagbe, the Black & Gold’s No. 10 has been working his way back from an injury in recent games and finally put together the type of performance Crew fans became accustomed to earlier in the season. Not only did Zelarayan take his chance for the opening goal, but helped to set up his teammates with two key passes and four crosses.

Pedro Santos (6.5) - While not as active offensively as some of his attacking teammates with just 18 passes and two crosses, Santos helped out defensively with two tackles and an interception.

Gyasi Zardes (7.5) - It was good to see the Columbus forward find the score sheet for the first time since mid-October heading into the playoffs. Zardes took his goal well, finishing with a double nutmeg on his left foot. He also held up the ball well and spearheaded the Crew’s defensive efforts from the front.

Substitutes

Luis Diaz (6.5) - Diaz came into the game for Etienne with just over 20 minutes to go. He completed three of his four pass attempts and was able to waste some clock late, taking a couple of hard fouls.

Waylon Francis (6) - After not playing in over a year for the Black & Gold, Francis saw action in his fourth straight game, coming off the bench for Valenzuela in the 71st minute. The Costa Rican left back had one clearance during his time on the field as he helped the home side see out the result.

Aidan Morris (N/A) - The Homegrown midfielder came off the bench for the injured Artur with four minutes to play and didn’t have time to really get into the game.

Head coach

Caleb Porter (7.5) - All that matters for the Crew from here on out is wins. Porter played a strong lineup despite a busy schedule to end the season and his team got the result it needed and help from around the league to finish third. That’s a good day for the Black & Gold boss.