The 2020 Columbus Crew season ended with the Black & Gold sending out MAPRE Stadium in style. The Crew began 2020 playing like the best team in MLS and finished the season in that same form. Now, with a championship trophy in hand, Columbus looks to build a dynasty.
But before we start looking ahead, we have to look back and review the 2020 season piece by piece. To begin the Massive Report Crew positional review, we start with arguably the most important position on the field: the goalkeeper.
Two goalkeepers saw the field for the Black & Gold in 2020 and both played extensive roles during the MLS Cup run. Let’s take a look at how these two, and the two reserve keepers, performed.
Editor’s note: The goalkeepers are listed in order of the number of appearances.
The Crew acquired Curacao’s Eloy Room following the sale of Zack Steffen to Manchester City during the 2019 season. Room’s play in 2019 helped an otherwise lackluster Columbus side finish that season on an optimistic note.
Entering 2020, it was clear that Room was the team’s starting goalkeeper whenever healthy. Room and the Black & Gold started the season on a six-match unbeaten run with the Curacou native starting in four of those matches. Following a three-match, plus one MLS Is Back Tournament knockout game, injury absence, Room returned to lead the team on another six-match unbeaten run. The Crew’s No. 1 picked up a knock during the middle of the season and missed three additional games. Upon returning, Room helped Columbus secure the third seed in the 2020 MLS Cup playoffs.
During the regular season, including the MLS is Back Tournament group stage games, Room made 17 starts for the Black & Gold. The Crew went 9-3-5 in those 17 matches, seven of which were shutouts. Room finished with the regular season with 15 goals against and 41 saves and a per-game goal against average of 0.88.
Room started Columbus’ first 2020 MLS Cup playoff match against the New York Red Bulls and helped the team secure a 3-2 victory with two saves. Unfortunately, Room was forced out of the next two games due to a team-wide COVID 19 outbreak.
Andrew Tarbell’s shutout performances in the next two playoff matches created a late-season goalkeeper controversy, but Room put any questions to rest during the MLS Cup Final. He helped lead the Crew’s defense to a shutout in the 2020 MLS Cup Final, making two key saves along the way and reminding fans why he was a candidate for 2020 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year (finishing third).
Room’s performance in 2020 established him as one of the premier goalkeepers in MLS. As long as his salary fits within the team's plans, expect Room to stick around in Columbus.
Durability is the only real concern with Room as the 2021 season approaches. Some of his injury woes during 2020 can be chalked up to an abnormally-clogged fixture schedule and no one can fault his COVID 19 related playoff absences. The 2021 capaign will see the Black & Gold play in three separate competitions (MLS, CONCACAF Champions League, and the U.S. Open Cup) and will likely need two starting-caliber goalkeepers on the roster.
Tarbell joined the Crew just before the 2020 season while looking for a fresh start after losing out on the San Jose Earthquakes starting job following the 2018 season.
He made his first appearance for Columbus during the final group stage match of the MLS is Back Tournament. As a replacement for the injured Room, Tarbell helped the team secure another group stage shutout and the top seed in the group. In the first match of the knockout phase, Tarbell gave up one goal but was unable to make a difference during a penalty kick shootout loss.
Tarbell continued his replacement duty in the first few matches following the MLS is Back Tournament but was sent back to the bench when Room recovered. Overall, Tarbell made seven appearances in the regular season, leading the Black & Gold to a 3-3 record during his six starts and giving up six goals with 17 saves and two shutouts.
In the 2020 MLS Cup playoffs, Tarbell was thrust into action with Room out due to COVID-19 protocol. The Easter Conference semifinal and final were the two best games that Tarbell played with the Crew and arguably the best of his career. In those matches, Tarbell made eight total saves and recorded shutouts in both, leading Columbus to the MLS Cup Final on the team’s home field.
Tarbell’s play during the playoffs made Caleb Porter’s MLS Cup Final lineup decision a difficult one but the MLS veteran was ultimately returned to the bench in favor of Room.
Following the MLS Cup victory, Tarbell and the Black & Gold decided to part ways. With Room the incumbent starter, Tarbell wanted to parlay his good play during the season into an opportunity to start regularly, and he’ll have that chance as a signee for FC Austin.
Kempin spent almost the entirety of the 2020 season on loan with San Diego Loyal SC of the USL Championship. He did not make any appearances for the Crew during the 2020 season. In San Diego, Kempin made 11 starts and recorded five shutouts in those starts.
It’s hard to say where Kempin stands as the team moves into the 2021 season. With the addition of Evan Bush, Kempin likely slides back to the third spot on the depth chart. He could spend yet another season on loan or find himself on a new team.
Lampson rejoined his hometown team just before the beginning of the 2020 MLS season after spending 2019 with the Los Angeles Galaxy, where he did not record any appearances. The Columbus native did not play for the Black & Gold during the 2020 season but did often find himself on the game-day roster.
What Lampson lacks on the stat sheet he certainly makes up for as a key locker room presence. Between his work as the president of the LampStrong Foundation and his close ties to the city, Lampson is a key personality on this team.