Columbus Crew SC returned to MAPFRE Stadium on Thursday for the first time in five months for the restart of Major League Soccer’s regular season. The Black & Gold’s reunion with its stadium ended well, as the team cemented its position as Supporters’ Shield leader with a 3-0 win against the Chicago Fire.
The match wasn’t as easy for the Crew as the final scoreline might indicate though after suffering pressure from Chicago for the better part of the second half, the Black & Gold scored twice in the final 10 minutes to seal the win.
Here’s how each player performed in the match:
Andrew Tarbell (6) – The goalkeeper went basically unnoticed during the entirety of the first half, but was called upon for an important save early in the second part of the game on a shot from Djordje Mihailovic. After that, he was tested another few times and responded well with all of them.
Harrison Afful (5.5) – The Ghanaian international played a decent game. He wasn’t as active offensively as usual and was caught out of his position a few times on defense, but did a good job in recovering and getting some important tackles.
Jonathan Mensah (6.5) – The captain was tasked with a physical battle against Fire striker Robert Beric and, after a couple of early fouls, he found a way to be on top of the Slovenian. Mensah was important in defending corner kicks and building out of the back.
Josh Williams (6.5) – The veteran has impressed head coach Caleb Porter in training and got the start after he appeared to be behind Aboubacar Keita in the pecking order during the MLS is Back Tournament. He responded with solid play on defense and had a major contribution to the team’s first goal with an over-the-top pass that found Valenzuela wide open on the left.
Milton Valenzuela (6) – The Argentinean did a great job in assisting Etienne on the team’s first goal by getting in a good position to receive the ball and then a perfect timing the pass to the winger. He wasn’t as noticeable in the final third after that but was solid on defense as usual.
Artur (5.5) – The Brazilian was bothered by Chicago’s strong on-the-ball pressure in midfield and turned it over in dangerous spots on at least a couple of occasions. In the second half, when the Fire had the most possession, he was important to help to win the ball back.
Darlington Nagbe (7) – The midfielder was as accurate and efficient as usual when distributing the ball in the center of the field, but it seemed that at times he slowed down the team’s offense more than needed in the first half. He moved up in the field in the final 20 minutes and sealed the Crew’s victory with an absolutely beautiful shot from outside the penalty box and the pass that set Zardes’ goal up.
Luis Diaz (5.5) – The Costa Rican had a couple of good runs by Fire winger Miguel Navarro on the right, especially the one that generated a penalty kick for the Crew. He had a great opportunity to score in the first half, but goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth did a good job in denying the attempt. In the second half, with the Crew struggling to create on offense, Diaz didn’t get on the ball much.
Pedro Santos (5.5) – The Portuguese ironically seemed a little disengaged played in a central position, as he didn’t get as much involved on offense and didn’t help as much as he typically does on defense. He moved back to the right side in the final portion of the match and from there he managed to assist Zardes for the team’s third goal in a play that showed his unselfishness.
Derrick Etienne Jr. (6) – The winger was the Crew’s most effective offensive player in the first half as he scored his first goal for the club and also setup a great opportunity up for Diaz, who missed it. In the second half, the team wasn’t as dominant on the offensive side of the field and Etienne didn’t get as involved.
Gyasi Zardes (5) – The forward struggled to deal with Chicago’s central defenders and wasn’t overly inspiring when he left the penalty box to combine with the midfielders. His penalty kick attempt was terrible, to say the least. Zardes was in a good position to score the third goal and hopefully can use it to gain confidence going forward.
Sebastian Berhalter (6) – The Homegrown player came on to replace Diaz halfway through the second half with the task of helping the Crew regain control of midfield. He indeed helped to increase the team’s intensity in that portion of the field and was dangerous on a free kick attempt that hit the side netting.
Emmanuel Boateng (5.5) – The recently-signed winger made his Crew debut in the last 20 minutes of the match and had a couple of runs down the left, but nothing that really impacted the outcome of the match.
Chris Cadden (N/A) – The Scottish defender came in to replace Santos when the game was about to end and didn’t have the time to make an impact.
Fanendo Adi (N/A) – The striker replaced Zardes in added time and didn’t have an opportunity to show what he could do.
Caleb Porter (6) – The match’s final result didn’t properly reflect what really happened on the field. For a long part of the game, Porter’s team was closer to conceding an equalizer than scoring a second goal. The relatively long inactivity and the absence of three starters are certainly a factor, but the Crew is considerably better than the Fire as a team and should have dominated the match in a stronger way. His decision to put Berhalter in had a great impact on the game and dictated its outcome.
Who Was the Crew’s Man of the Match against Chicago?
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Derrick Etienne Jr.