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Game Grades: Crew vs. Toronto FC

How did the players perform in the Black & Gold’s first MLS defeat in 2021?

MLS: Columbus Crew SC at Toronto FC Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

The Columbus Crew faced its first setback in the 2021 Major League Soccer season as the Black & Gold were downed 2-0 by Toronto FC on the Canadians’ temporary home of Exploria Stadium, in Orlando, on Wednesday. It was a flat performance by Columbus for the most part and the team’s inability to consistently create goal-scoring opportunities and to defend set pieces were both taken advantage of by Toronto.

Here’s how each Crew player fared in the match:

Starters

Eloy Room (5) – The goalkeeper had a weird night. Even though Room wasn’t bothered much by Toronto’s offense during most of the match, he was caught in a bad spot on the Canadians’ second goal and was unable to reach the ball or stop Jozy Altidore.

Saad Abdul-Salaam (5.5) – The 29-year-old right back got his first start with the Crew and struggled defensively during the first half, as he was constantly targeted by Toronto’s offense and failed to clear the ball from the penalty box before Michael Bradley scored. He came back to save what would certainly be a goal from Yeferson Soteldo a few minutes later and provided the team with a decent offensive option on the right side.

Jonathan Mensah © (4.5) – The captain seemed to be always one step late as he couldn’t manage to keep Columbus’ defense as tight as usual and also gave up too much space to Toronto’s attackers a few times. He committed the foul that led to Toronto’s second goal in a play in which Altidore had his back to the goal.

Vito Wormgoor (4) – The Dutch defender had a rough night with a few positioning mistakes and several situations in which his lack of speed was a labiality against faster Toronto attackers.

Waylon Francis (5) – The Costa Rican had somewhat of a decent defensive showing with two tackles and one interception in just 45 minutes, but couldn’t react in the most important play of the first half when the ball bounced up on him and fell for Bradley to score. He didn’t add much offensively throughout the game.

Isaiah Parente (5.5) – The rookie wasn’t brilliant but had a decent showing and was probably one of the best Crew players in the contest. Parente got the job done on defense with a team-high four tackles, led the team in passes with 63 and connected more than 92 percent of those he attempted. His impact on the game wasn’t on par with his very good numbers though.

Darlington Nagbe (5) – The midfielder helped the Crew keep possession and break Toronto’s press but didn’t make a huge impact on the offensive side of the game. He had a very important defensive action in the second half to help avoid a Toronto goal.

Luis Diaz (4.5) – The winger brought his usual high level of energy on the right side and worked hard on both ends of the ball. Offensively, however, his efficiency wasn’t great, especially when trying to connect with Zardes up top.

Lucas Zelarayan (4.5) – The Argentinean had glimpses of brilliance during the match but couldn’t produce consistently during his time he was on the field. Zelarayan’ss delivery on final balls wasn’t great either, be it on crosses of set pieces.

Alexandru Matan (5) – The young Romanian had the performance you’d expect from a young, talented player with some good moments, but couldn’t remain consistent. Matan showed some interesting skills, especially related to his dribbling ability and defensive work rate, but still has several areas of his game that need improvement.

Gyasi Zardes (4.5) – The striker kept his work rate as high as usual and was spotted winning possession back in Crew’s penalty box, but missed a point-blank opportunity in the first half that could have changed the game. He didn’t have a lot of chances outside of that one and his best play was a headed pass to Matan that the Romanian failed to capitalize on.

Substitutes

Aboubacar Keita (4.5) – The center back came in for Francis at halftime and played a hybrid role of left back and central defender. Even though his presence helped to stabilize the Crew’s defense in the second half, he was easily beaten by Omar Gonzalez in the air on Toronto’s second goal.

Harrison Afful (5) – Columbus’ normal starting right back replaced Abdul-Salaam halfway through the second half but didn’t manage to really change the path of the game. He couldn’t do much against a much taller and stronger Altidore on Toronto’s second goal.

Bradley Wright-Philips (4.5) – The veteran entered the match with 15 minutes to go in a moment in which Columbus looked for an equalizer but the team’s limited service didn’t help him.

Miguel Berry (N/A) – The forward came in after Toronto’s second goal, when the match was already decided.

Head coach

Caleb Porter (5) – There was, of course, an obvious need to rotate players with three matches in a week but the lineup he chose showed a surprising inability to produce on offense and Porter had no answers for it. Working on defensive set pieces is a clear need too.

Poll

Who Was the Crew's Man of the Match Against Toronto FC?

This poll is closed

  • 28%
    Saad Abdul-Salaam
    (9 votes)
  • 21%
    Isaiah Parente
    (7 votes)
  • 18%
    Darlington Nagbe
    (6 votes)
  • 21%
    Alexandru Matan
    (7 votes)
  • 9%
    Other
    (3 votes)
32 votes total Vote Now