During the press conference following Columbus Crew SC’s 1-0 victory against Atlanta United on Tuesday, head coach Caleb Porter said that goalkeeper Eloy Room, who’s currently dealing with a hamstring injury, likely won’t be ready to return to the team next Tuesday, when the Black & Gold face Minnesota United in the Round of 16 of the MLS is Back Tournament, in Orlando.
The news that could have created panic among Black & Gold fans didn’t have nearly the same impact, even though Room’s contribution to the team’s recent form has been undeniable. That was, for the most part, because backup goalkeeper Andrew Tarbell left a very positive impression against Atlanta, in his first-ever match in a Crew uniform.
Widely selected at the team’s Man of the Match in a poll held by Massive Report, Tarbell was one of the main reasons why the Crew had its third-straight clean sheet in the tournament as he made six saves and a few important ones, most notably one in a close-range attempt from Anton Walkes near the end of the match.
Tarbell’s performance was even more impressive when considering that the goalkeeper’s last Major League Soccer appearance came in September of 2018 for the San Jose Earthquakes, the only team he played for before being traded to the Crew last February.
“As a goalkeeper, you always have to be ready,” Tarbell said in the press conference. “I train every day to be ready to go. I’m sad to see Eloy out with an injury, he’s obviously been part of the team, but it’s my job to be ready when I’m called upon. I had a good week of training, so I was just wanted to stay focused and do my job.”
Truth be told, Tarbell has benefited from the protection of arguably the Crew’s most solid defense in recent years. This group, led by team captain Jonathan Mensah, has conceded only one goal in five matches in 2020 and the Crew is the only team in the entire league to not all a goal through three matches in Orlando.
However, with the confidence of being shielded by a group of capable players also comes the added pressure of trying to keep up with their standards. That, according to the 26-year-old goalkeeper, wasn’t a problem, though.
“I got so much confidence from the guys in front of me,” he added. “Jonathan is such a leader in there, his communication is so good, he really takes charge of everything. The same with Harry (Afful) on the right, Bouba (Keita) in the middle and Milton (Valenzuela) and Hector (Jimenez) on the left. Their communication and the movement between them are so good.
“They coordinate the guys in front of them and Darlington (Nagbe) and Artur are so good in getting us out of trouble, we can always find them when we have to. I have a ton of confidence to play behind these guys, they definitely helped me out and made me feel part of the team. Getting out there was great. It was nice to be back on the field.”
Tarbell has long waited for the opportunity to be back on the field. Drafted by the Earthquakes in 2016, he played occasionally for the club in his first two seasons before getting the full-time job in 2018, when he started 29 matches and conceded 60 goals.
He didn’t play a single match in 2019 after the arrival of Argentinean Daniel Vega and saw the move to Columbus as a good opportunity to improve his chances of playing. His mentality seems to be in line with how the entire Crew squad has dealt with the multiple injuries that have affecting the team during the tournament in Florida.
In addition to Room, center back Vito Wormgoor, who’s out of the tournament and will miss from 4-6 months due to an ankle injury, and winger Youness Mokhtar, who left Tuesday’s match with a muscle issue and is not expected to play against Minnesota either, are others who have dealt with injuries recently.
The team, however, seems to be battling the injuries with a strong mindset, as each Crew player that got to play in Orlando so far has somehow contributed with the team.
“Everybody here is ready to play,” Tarbell stated. “Day in and day out, everyone believes they’re going to play. As a group, our mentality is so strong and we’re just ready. Each of us wants to step on the field and perform and when we get to games like this, when we need to use everybody, everybody is ready and supporting each other. It helps that we got a good mix of older and younger guys. It’s a great group to be a part of.”