The highly-anticipated first meeting between Columbus Crew and expansion franchise Austin FC was a busy one but ended scoreless as the Black & Gold and the Texans had to settle for a 0-0 draw at Q2 Stadium, in Austin. The Black & Gold were out-possessed during most of the match but managed to arguably create the most dangerous goal-scoring opportunities despite not converting one over the 90 minutes.
Here’s how each Crew player performed in the match:
Eloy Room (7.5) – The goalkeeper had a busy start of a match as he was called upon to block crosses and collect shots from long distance, and responded with confidence to Austin’s offense. Room was very focused on the match, being extremely precise when he had to come out of goal and played a flawless game. He used his feet a lot in this match and was efficient every time he did it.
Harrison Afful (6) – The Ghanaian was quiet for most of the first half, focusing on helping the team on defense and building out of the back, but had a couple of dangerous runs forward in the final five minutes in which he created chances. He tried to score with long shots in the second half but didn’t have success.
Jonathan Mensah © (7) – The captain had a significant size advantage against Austin’s smaller attackers when it came down to crosses to the penalty box and seemed unbeatable in the air, ending the match with impressive nine clearances. He was important in keeping the backline organized with his constant communication with his teammates as well.
Vito Wormgoor (6) – Wormgoor was somehow not as busy as Jonathan but also played a solid match and helped Valenzuela defending the left side when he was in trouble. He had a couple of important defensive actions inside the penalty box before leaving the game at the 70th minute.
Milton Valenzuela (5) – Making his first start in quite some time, the Argentinean clearly felt the lack of match rhythm and was repeatedly targeted by Austin’s offense. He didn’t make any major mistakes but it was clear it was becoming a difficult situation for the Crew to handle and he was taken off at halftime.
Liam Fraser (5.5) – The young defensive midfielder started in Artur’s place once again and played a fairly decent first half, with four interceptions and an 86.4 percent accuracy rate on his passes. He was replaced by Hairston at halftime, perhaps as Porter looked for better coverage on the left side.
Darlington Nagbe (6.5) – Nagbe played an important, yet perhaps unappreciated, role for the Black & Gold as he helped the Crew keep the ball, slowing the game down and disrupting Austin’s frenetic rhythm. He did well with his ball distribution too and initiated some transition plays for the Crew.
Pedro Santos (6) – The Portuguese was arguably Columbus’ most active offensive player in the first half. He had good plays, such as the cross that Brad Stuver almost deflected right onto Zardes’ feet, but also some bad ones, including a poor long-distance attempt. Santos moved to the left in the second half and faded a little bit before being subbed off near the end.
Lucas Zelarayan (7.5) – The Argentinean did a great job in finding space to get on the ball, be it more centrally or down the flanks. He was easily Columbus’ most dangerous player in the match with a number of dangerous runs and five shots, at least three of which were great ones, that were saved by Austin goalkeeper Brad Stuver. Zelarayan did well on set pieces too and found Zardes in a great position to score, but the striker missed the opportunity.
Kevin Molino (6) – The winger got his second consecutive start with the Crew and is clearly still regaining his best form. Molino was solid on the ball, using his dribbling ability to push the team forward, but couldn’t really find a consistent rhythm. He had a couple of good plays coming inside to combine with Zelarayan and that’s something Crew fans would like to see more often.
Gyasi Zardes (6) – With Columbus having less of the ball than usual, the striker wasn’t involved much in the first half except for a near-post header he couldn’t put on frame. There was no shortage of effort from Zardes though as he worked hard on defense and chased long balls. He had the best chance of the game with the ball at his feet inside the penalty box during the second half but couldn’t get it past Stuver on the best of his six shots.
Waylon Francis (6) – The Costa Rican came in for Valenzuela after halftime and fed Zelarayan with a great pass on his very first action. He also managed to keep things quieter on the left side of Columbus’ defense, stabilizing that area of the field.
Marlon Hairston (6) – The versatile Hairston was deployed by Porter in the center of the midfield after he replaced Fraser for the second half. He helped to improve the team’s ball circulation and gave more mobility to the Crew when in possession at first but slowly disappeared in the game as Austin started pressing up higher.
Derrick Etienne Jr. (5.5) – The pacey winger entered the match with 10 minutes played in the second half, replacing Molino, and didn’t get involved much as the Black & Gold used the left side more often to attack during the second half. He received a pass inside the penalty box near the end but sent his cross right towards Stuver from a tough angle.
Aboubacar Keita (6.5) – Coming off the bench in busy matches is always challenging for center backs, but Keita handled it well and quickly got into the pace of the game and held his own during the 20 minutes he was on the field.
Alexandru Matan (N/A) – The Romanian replaced Santos with only seven minutes to go and didn’t do much besides starting a dangerous counter attack and trying a cross to Etienne that he couldn’t complete.
Caleb Porter (6) – His team never could match Austin’s intensity but kept the opponents under control, allowing only five shots on target, most of them from long distance. Having more of the ball would have helped though, and outside from a good idea of bringing Hairston in the midfield, the Crew didn’t do more in that regard. His strategy relied on Columbus being more efficient offensively and that just wasn’t the case.
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