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Game Grades: Crew vs. Nashville SC

The Black & Gold didn’t have a gamebreaking performance, but there were flashes.

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch Kyle Robertson/Columbus Dispatch via Imagn Content Services, LLC

While a tie keeps the points streak going, the Columbus Crew likely felt that they should have had three points against Nashville SC. Instead, it was a 0-0 draw at Lower.com Field. Despite the “two points dropped” there were several performances that Crew fans can look at as positives as the team gets healthier and more players become available for action.

Starters

Eloy Room (7.5) – Had a big save early on a heavily deflected shot that kept the game scoreless. It was a magnificent save. Otherwise Room was a steady presence in the back except for late in the game when he decided to play sweeper-keeper 40 yards from goal and losing possession.

Harrison Afful (6.5) – Struggled to connect with Etienne through the first half, but looked better as the Crew found a groove. He developed a good rapport with Molino when he entered in the second half. They combined well in tight spaces to pull the Nashville defense around.

Jonathan Mensah © (7) – Another fine outing from the Crew captain. He organized the defense well and matched Sapong’s physicality to shut down much of Nashville’s half chances going forward. He even pushed into the final third at times when the Crew were looking for the winning goal.

Aboubacar Keita (7) - Nashville didn’t send numbers forward, but Keita did very well when Hany Mukhtar and C.J. Sapong got the ball into space. The center back was a little skittish on the ball early, but grew very comfortable as the game progressed.

Waylon Francis (5) - Struggled with the speed of the game on both sides of the ball. Nashville was able to take advantage of his declining pace a couple times, but his struggles were more apparent on attack. He struggled with progressive moves on the left side, often isolated too deep from Santos or Nagbe.

Perry Kitchen (6) - Steady midfield presence during his 45 minutes on the field, but added little going forward when the Crew were in possession. He unwisely earned a yellow card kicking the ball away after a professional foul.

Darlington Nagbe (7) - Was a bright spot in the first half, but really shone in the second when he was paired with Hairston. He was his usual tidy self in possession and on the ball, but he was also the Crew’s best player pushing through the final third. He combined with just about every attacker on the field as he set up chances.

Derrick Etienne Jr. (6) - Often isolated on the right touchline, Etienne looked a step slow on the evening. Likely due to his 180 minutes of Gold Cup action last week for Haiti. He went 65 minutes before being substituted for Kevin Molino.

Lucas Zelarayan (6.5) - He put on a show when he got the ball, but Nashville did well to isolate him and suffocate him with numbers. He struggled to connect with the rest of the attack and was prone to taking the game on his shoulders when other options may have been better.

Pedro Santos (7) - Struggled, like much of the team in the first half, but showed attacking bite on the left wing in the second half. He had a couple sharp crosses that found Wright-Phillips. He became even more dangerous when he dropped back to left back when Waylon Francis left.

Erik Hurtado (5.5) - Worked hard as a target up front and as the first line of defense in his best Gyasi impression, however wasn’t really dangerous as he struggled for service in his 45 minutes on the field. Did have a nicely timed run to break into space, but his shot was off-balance and off-target.

Substitutes

Bradley Wright-Phillips (6.5) - The veteran looked very active and it’s clear his game sharpness is returning. He was far more mobile than Hurtado, able to come into the midfield to link up, but also finding those pockets of space to receive the ball and hold up play.

Marlon Hairston (7.5) - A true impact sub. He was much more progressive in his movements than Kitchen. The Crew attack looked more dangerous with him in the midfield. He freed up Nagbe to drift as the rangy Hairston could cover more ground than Kitchen. He was able to provide connectivity between a backline and attack that struggled through the first 45 minutes and probably the biggest difference between the Crew attack between the halves.

Kevin Molino (6.5) - There were flashes of the gamebreaker that the Crew were signing in the offseason. After a lengthy injury absence then international duty, Molino still hasn’t had much training time with the team, but showed some glimpses of his ability on the ball. Unfortunately, he missed the best chance of the night - his shot from 12 yards out looked to be the winner, but went wide.

Alex Matan (6.5) - The diminutive winger is pure energy as a super sub. He was confident on the dribble and was tenacious on defense. He’s a nightmare to handle for a tired defense, but he was still missing that cutting edge to his game to create true danger.

Head Coach

Caleb Porter (6.5) - The initial starting lineup was a bit too conservative, but the coach wasted little time changing the game. His two halftime subs, lifting Hurtado and Kitchen for Wright-Phillips and Hairston gave Columbus much more progressive movement in midfield and a savvy veteran to spearhead the attack. Adding Molino and Matan were savvy, if obvious, moves for a team that was chasing three points.