If you opted to grab a drink from your refrigerator at the kickoff of Columbus Crew SC’s preseason match with New York Bulls on Wednesday night, you likely missed the opening goal. Recently acquired attacker Derek Etienne found the back of the net a mere 33 seconds after the opening whistle. The former Red Bull Homegrown player tallied the opening goal of the match with a cool left-footed strike near the top of the penalty box.
The play was created after Columbus completed twelve successive passes, in a beautiful attacking showcase that reached its crescendo when Pedro Santos, who found himself wearing the captain’s armband and slotted in the creative midfield role, dished a pass through the heart of New York’s defensive-third to Etienne. The young winger sent the ball towards the sideline, onto the foot of outside back, Chris Cadden, who delivered it back to Etienne for the finish.
Columbus came out in the team’s prototypical 4-2-3-1 formation and was aggressive and pacey from the opening moments, controlling the majority of the first-half possession. The Crew looked dangerous in all facets of the game, including set pieces. Within just the first 30 minutes of the match, Columbus came oh-so-close to scoring again on multiple set pieces. The first near-miss came from Santos, who delivered a curling freekick that just went over the crossbar. Moments later, Josh Williams got his head on a corner kick which hit the top of the net.
Goalkeeper Jon Kempin saw very little action in the first half, only encountering minimally dangerous opportunities. The Black & Gold backline of Chris Cadden, Josh Williams, Abubakar Keita and Hector Jimenez were stout in their defensive play, thwarting the young Red Bull starting lineup. The outside back duo of Cadden and Jimenez pushed up into the Crew attack incessantly, especially Cadden. With this tactic being utilized, central midfielder Sebastian Berhalter dropped deep to cover defensively. In times where he would push up, Darlington Nagbe would cover and fill the center of the defense in case of a quick counter-attack.
The Red Bulls looked sloppy and off-kilter early on, which is to be expected in with a mishmash of young players fielded in a preseason contest. However, New York head coach Chris Armas lit a fire under his men at intermission. Down 1-0 at the break, the Red Bulls showed a different tone in the second half. Attacking star Kaku helped lead that attack for the Red Bulls, coming on as a second-half sub
Columbus’ newest addition, goalkeeper Andrew Tarbell replaced Kempin after halftime and felt the wrath of the reinvigorated Red Bull group. The lengthy goalkeeper dealt with a scoring chance in the opening seconds of the second half, including two back-to-back saves in the 49th minute. The first save was a full-extension dive to his left, immediately followed up with a point-blank save from a shot just outside his six-yard box. In fact, within the first 10 minutes of the half. Tarbell had to make four legitimate saves.
To start the second half, the Black & Gold made a handful of lineup modifications of their own. Artur was swapped in for Nagbe. Indiana product, Aidan Morris gave Santos a breather. A promising first half for the son of former Crew coach Gregg Berhalter turned into an early exit, as a brutal foul committed on Omir Fernandez saw Berhalter earn a red card ejection in the 61st minute. In response to being a man down, Columbus switched to a 4-4-1 formation. Less than 10 minutes after the dismissal, a cross from New York’s left wing dropped into the six-yard box onto the foot of Crew defender Hector Jimenez, who inexplicably attempted to clear the ball through the middle of the goal box, but the ball instead fell to the foot of New York forward Brian White, who easily finished the strike to tie the game 1-1.
The Red Bulls maintained control of the contest throughout the final half. The enhanced vigor and schematic modifications made by New York, along with the man advantage pushed Columbus to bunker down and hope for a draw or score a go ahead goal via a quick counter attack. Tarbell continued to flash his phenomenal skillset and ability with a handful of timely saves to keep the scoresheet as unscathed as possible for the Crew.
In times where Columbus did gain possession, they continued to push the attack with speed and quick counter attacks, but were ultimately were unsuccessful in finding the back of the net. Luis Diaz, in particular, had a dangerous opportunity but was unable to cleanly connect. Caleb Porter found minutes for other reserve players, including the Crew’s first-round draft pick, Miguel Berry and also forward Jordan Hamilton.
As you may hope to experience in a preseason match, Columbus endured a tale of two halves. The first was a dominant performance by coach Porter’s lineup. The possession, the connective passing, the pedal to the metal attack was on. Defensively, very little came Kempin’s way, which speaks well for the Columbus defense, no matter what level of opposition they faced. The second half saw a revitalized and purposeful New York team, which put the Crew on their heels early and often. The red card to Berhalter provided this unit with a preseason opportunity to be tested with the odds stacked against them and it showed. Columbus created few chances, gave away too many possessions and were on the defensive. A 1-1 draw was a fair result for both clubs, but the Crew can take solace in knowing that the team stood up to the challenge and did not relent any late-game goals, as was often the case in 2019.
Fanendo Adi – The big man looked like a bull in a china shop. He set the tone early against the young Red Bull lineup. He used his long 6-foot-4 frame to possess the ball, hold the play up and endure several fouls. Though at times, his body language was mopey when the ball wouldn’t come his way or if a teammate would miss-hit a pass. He provided an effective shift and displayed his abilities to Crew fans.
Chris Cadden – The Scottish outside back showed the willingness and ability to push into the attack and send dangerous passes to teammates. His soccer IQ was very apparent, as was his work rate. His 1 v 1 defending is still a work in progress, but whether in a reserve role or as an eventual starter, Cadden looks to be a steal of a deal.
Sebastian Berhalter - While yes, it was merely a preseason match against another Major League Soccer team, the Crew Homegrown player looked comfortable and confident. He didn’t panic with the ball at his feet in dangerous areas of the field and he completed a multitude of counter passes. However, a promising first-half turned into an early exit in the second half, as a brutal spikes up tackle saw his night end early. A young player looking to do too much in live action cost the team. It will certainly be a learning moment for the blossoming player.
Coming Up Next
The Crew has earned four points in the Cup standings, with the next game on Saturday, Feb. 22nd versus Houston Dynamo at 8 p.m. ET.