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Game Grades: Crew vs. New York Red Bulls

How the Black & Gold players performed in the team’s fifth straight loss.

SOCCER: AUG 18 MLS - Columbus Crew SC at New York Red Bulls Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

After so much success a year ago and to start the 2021 season, the Columbus Crew has become a bit of a broken record. The Crew lost the team’s fifth straight game on Wednesday night, falling 1-0 to the New York Red Bulls. Once again, it was a performance that could have resulted in at least a point, but the Black & Gold came away with nothing.

This disappointment was evident in the Columbus players and coaches after the match and the team knows things need to change fast for the defending MLS Cup champions. Some good performances aren’t good enough right now and points can’t keep slipping away.

Speaking of performances, below is how the players performed in yet another defeat.

Starters

Eloy Room (6.5) - The Crew goalkeeper has returned to better form after a rough stretch that started this losing streak. Room made four saves against the Red Bulls, including a couple of impressive ones, but allowed the one goal, which went through his legs, that made the difference in the outcome.

Harrison Afful (6) - Returning to the starting lineup after coming off the bench on Sunday, Afful started the game brightly with two crosses that almost led to goals, including one that forced a save from New York’s goalkeeper. But Afful got caught ball watching on the Red Bull goal, allowing John Tolkin to run unmaked into the penalty area.

Jonathan Mensah (7.5) - Similar to Room, Jonathan looked uncharacteristically shakey for a couple of matches but has found his form again. The center back captain led the team in both clearances (8) and interceptions (4) as he put together yet another solid performance at the back.

Aboubacar Keita (7) - Making his second straight start, the Black & Gold Homegrown player continues to play well. Yes, he had a bad outing against D.C. United but played well against the Fire on Sunday and in this game had six clearances and one blocked shot, as well as playing a great long ball to Gyasi Zardes that should have resulted in his first career MLS assist.

Waylon Francis (6.5) - Francis put together a fine performance at left back for Columbus with three interceptions, two clearances and one tackle. His defensive performances continue to be good enough as long as he’s not going against a speedy winger. The Costa Rican did get forward more than he has in recent games as well with two crosses but failed to connect during his 51 minutes in the match.

Kevin Molin (6.5) - Columbus is still waiting on a return on their offseason investment in Molino, the team’s biggest free agent signing. Once again, Molino did some good things with two great efforts on goal and a couple of key passes, but didn’t convert when he had clear-cut chances. Molino also went down far too easy on the play that led to the goal and then didn’t get back when the referee elected not to call a foul.

Darlington Nagbe (7) - There are few games where Crew fans are going to fault Nagbe for his performance. The Ohio native did feel the pressure of New York with a passing accuracy of 82.6 percent — nowhere near the mid-to-upper 90s it usually is. He was involved in the build-up throughout the game, but had no key passes when the Black & Gold could use someone to create more offensively in the middle of the field.

Liam Fraser (7) - After being called for a penalty kick early in the match — which was overturned after VAR intervened — and a couple of loose challenges, Fraser responded well. The Canadian connected on 30 percent of his long balls and 72.7 percent of his passes while making four tackles in the center of the park.

Alexandru Matan (6) - One of the bright spots of the season for the Crew has been the play of Matan, but Wednesday was arguably his worst performance. Matan didn’t play poorly, but he didn’t offer much of anything with just 17 touches, 13 passes and no cross in 51 minutes on the pitch.

Bradley Wright-Phillips (6) - Changing to a 4-4-2, the veteran forward got the start up top facing his old team. Wright-Phillips had a couple of nice moments, like his late one-time shot from inside the six-yard box that forced a nice save, but there aren’t enough of them. At 36 years old, Wright-Phillips doesn’t have the legs to move around the field like he used to and his 29 touches in the game show that his teammates need to find him more frequently for him to be dangerous.

Gyasi Zardes (6) - Like Wright-Phillips, Zardes had a chance to equalize and couldn’t put the ball in the net. Unlike Wright-Phillips, it was because of a poor decision on his shot on a breakaway and not an impressive stop by the goalkeeper. While he worked hard defensively, Zardes didn’t add much up top before he had to be substituted with an injury in the 45th minute.

Substitutes

Lucas Zelarayan (6.5) - After the injury to Zardes, Zelarayan came in and the Black & Gold shifted back to their traditional 4-2-3-1 formation. The Argentine was active with 31 touches, more than any other offensive player, and had one key pass and one shot but gave the ball away four times.

Pedro Santos (7) - The Portuguese came in and played left back for 39 minutes. Santos got forward more than Francis, including two crosses and 11 long balls. While Santos only completed 46.7 percent of his passes, he took risks when Columbus needed a goal.

Derrick Etienne Jr. (6.5) - Etienne came on for Matan at the same time as Santos and played on the left wing. He didn’t look as comfortable on a different side of the field than he normally plays, but completed eight of 10 passes and his one cross.

Erik Hurtado (6) - Coming in on the wing in the 75th minute, Hurtado completed his one cross and got forward a decent amount, nearly creating a goal in stoppage time.

Head Coach

Caleb Porter (6.5) - Porter tried something different, going with the 4-4-2 to try and generate some offense while also battling a congested schedule. The play worked early in the first half as the Crew controlled the game, but then stopped winning second balls right around the time the Red Bulls scored. The plan had to change when Zardes went out, but Columbus generated enough chances to win.