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Game Grades: Crew vs. New York City FC

Here’s how the players performed in Sunday’s season-opening win.

Darlington Nagbe on the ball
Sam Fahmi

Columbus Crew SC started the 2020 season off with a massive three points, taking down 10-man New York City FC 1-0 at MAPFRE Stadium. The win gave the Crew the confidence going forward to be a true contender in the Eastern Conference with still 33 games to go.

The match and the strategy turned on its head quickly after New York City’s Maxime Chanot was sent off just three minutes in, giving the Black & Gold the man advantage for 87 minutes plus stoppage time. Here are the individual grades for the 11-man Crew squad that beat NYCFC:

Eloy Room (6) - Room had very little to do most of the game with Columbus controlling play with the man advantage. When Room had to spring into action, he was stellar with three saves and the accurate pass that led to the Chanot red card. It was an easy clean sheet for the Curaçao international.

Harrison Afful (7) - Afful did his normal thing on Sunday: defending well, helping build play in the midfield and assisting in creating chances. Afful’s pass led to Zelarayan’s goal but it was his decision to cut inside rather than out that created the space to pass to El Mago. Despite a yellow, Afful gets a 7 with 83 percent pass accuracy and two interceptions.

Jonathan Mensah (6) - The new Crew captain had a fine performance at center back and just like the other defenders, didn’t have too much to worry about all game. Mensah’s passing in the first half was suspect with some errant attempts leading to NYCFC attacks. His accuracy at 81 percent was the lowest amongst the back four. Jonathan did step up for blocks and tackles when he needed to.

Vito Wormgoor (7) - The Dutch center back had a debut he should be very proud of. He had physical tackles, missed only four passes and was instrumental intercepting and recovering the ball. Attackers will be scared to dribble past the big Dutchman all season.

Milton Valenzuela (8) - In his first game since October of 2018, Milton Valenzuela showed us why the Crew missed him so much last season. He was the most effective person in attack other than Zelarayan, creating that Argentine duo that could be the Columbus’ key to success. An 87 percent pass accuracy, seven crosses, four duels won and 12 recoveries give Milton an 8.

Darlington Nagbe (8.5) - Nagbe is the kind of midfielder that can have a brilliant game without getting the goals or assists. He was magnificent without being overly noticed. He completed every pass he made for the first 75 minutes, finishing with only three missed passes in 59 attempts. His long switch to Afful was a peach of a ball that gave him the hockey assist for the goal. It was such a good pass.

Artur (8) - Artur was also magnificent in midfield controlling play, moving forward in the second half and holding possession against the 10 men of New York City. He won duels in midfield (8/11), completed 86 percent of his passes and was 80-percent accurate on his long balls. The Brazilian and Nagbe will be a great tandem.

Pedro Santos (6) - Santos was feisty and shot happy in the first half, which I like. It’s good to take shots. With four shots, he was gunning for that rocket to smash past Sean Johnson all game long. He was the best attacker in the first half but had instances of losing duels while going forward.

Lucas Zelarayan (8.5) - A debut of dreams for Lucas Zelarayan. A stunning turn that required balance, strength and good decision making oupled with a touch and a finish picked from the top-shelf. The aspect of his game that impressed me the most was how often he ran back towards the midfield and sometimes the backline to get the ball. He is hungry to get touches so he can create and make this team better.

Youness Mokhtar (5) - Mokhtar got the nod to start by Caleb Porter and was underwhelming in the 58 minutes he played. Mokhtar didn’t get too involved in the offense during the first half and wasn’t able to create like Zelarayan and Santos. We’ll see if Porter starts him again against the Seattle Sounders next week.

Gyasi Zardes (5) - Zardes this season won’t have to score every goal or play every second cause he has help now. He played 80 minutes and was a non-factor with little to no through balls or crosses that he connected with all game. It’s still a long season and Zardes will have better performances in the months to come.

Luis Diaz (5) - The Olympic hopeful for Costa Rica was a mixed bag off the bench. His speed was felt by the New York City defense when he ran at the backline while they were exhausted. He just ran and ran. Unfortunately, a glaring miss from inside the penalty box after a good build-up knocks his grade down a notch or two. He can’t have a chance that open and nearly shank it for a throw-in.

Fanendo Adi (6) - In the 10 minutes Adi played, you could see his confidence and composure when the ball was at his feet. He had good turns in midfield to find an open pass, took the ball to the corner and looked calm doing it. I liked what he did a lot in the short debut he had.

Chris Cadden (N/A) - Cadden came on in the 87th minute and didn’t play enough to warrant a full rating but his versatility can make him a useful sub. And hey, he almost scored when he came on.

Caleb Porter (7) - Porter made the right adjustments at halftime to get his guys to be more creative in attack. In the first half, the offense was moving slowly and allowing New York City to get organized defensively while just cutting wide.

In the second half, the offense was way more creative, using the flanks and center of the pitch to generate opportunities. His substitute decisions all made sense. I loved seeing Cadden almost score at the end.