After an unbeaten streak of six matches, the Columbus Crew find the team on the end of another streak with three straight losses. Against Atlanta United, the Crew fell 3-2, but unlike in the last two matches, Columbus had a chance on Saturday night.
Despite conceding early yet again, the Black & Gold had two goals turned over for offside and Atlanta heard the whistle twice for penalty kick opportunities, converting both. While it is another Crew loss, there were performances that stood out, alongside a few that players would rather forget.
Here are how the players graded out.
Eloy Room (5.0) - It’s tough to peg the three goals on Room because he had big stops in the match, but they were all in the run of play or on set piece free kicks. When it comes to penalty kicks, Room guessed wrong. Goalkeepers are not expected to stop penalties, but a big save would have turned things for Columbus
Harrison Afful (4.5) - Saturday had flashes of the Afful of old, with a laser pass in the second half that cut through the United defense and a defensive steal in the first half, but otherwise the fullback was attacked all night by Atlanta for a reason. Afful noticably didn’t have the speed or effort to make up for a beautiful backheel pass by George Bello on the fifth-minute Atlanta goal and he failed to move his feet quickly enough leading to the second penalty.
Jonathan Mensah (8.0) - Mensah was far and away the best Crew player on the field, and not just because he scored. The Columbus captain took a United shot point blank to the face, broke up Atlanta’s offense and earned the Crew a penalty at the end of full time.
Liam Fraser (7.0) - In a surprise move, Fraser moved from his central midfield position to center back against the Five Stripes. What resulted was a poised performance where the Canadian remained patient and played well off Mensah, filling in space. His highlight of the match came early in the first half when he helped slow an Atlanta attack, staying composed and allowing Mensah to get back and block the eventual shot.
Pedro Santos (6.5) - Usual forward-attacking, Santos is owning his time as a fullback. Atlanta rarely went his down his side and when they did, Santos was there to break up the attack. The Portuguese also efficiently made his way up the sidelines into attacking positions. The night ended with Santos making another penalty kick.
Darlington Nagbe (6.0) - The night started a little quieter for Nagbe than usual, with a few rushed situations. Nagbe ended the night with a 93 percent passing evening, which is actually a down performannce for the midfielder. Things turned around and Nagbe moved the Black & Gold offense forward. His biggest play of the night came on the goal line, stopping a shot headed in by United.
Marlon Hairston (5.0) - The first penalty of the match came on a foul by Hairston. Other than that play, Hairston had a good night, intercepting passes and blocking the Five Stripes’ offensive lanes all game.
Kevin Molino (4.5) - It’s hard to accurately rate Molino because he didn’t do all that much. Rarely did the winger find space to make moves and his awareness lacked. In 63 minutes played he completed only 69 percent of his passes and had no shots.
Lucas Zelarayan (5.0) -Saturday was an off night for the MLS All-Star. When down, Zelarayan did a good job of not rushing chances and allowing the offense to make plays around him. However, there weren’t many of the moments that strike fear into the backline of the opponent for the Argentinian.
Luis Diaz (5.5) - Diaz sent two shots soaring into the stands, both rushed, but was a heavily used piece of the attack. Diaz thought he tied the match early in the second half with a nice finish, but a late offside flag broke up the comeback party. The winger also added some plays on defense, breaking up another Barco chance.
Gyasi Zardes (5.0) - There were rarely any chances for Zardes to do anything important. Most crosses sailed past the most dangerous parts of the penalty area. Zardes broke up an Atlanta set piece later in the second half, but other than that there weren’t many times for Zardes to be Zardes.
Derrick Etienne Jr. (5.5) - Etienne came into the match in the 63rd minute. His moment came in the 72nd minute when he scored what looked like a beautiful goal until the offsides flag reared its ugly head a second time. His performance was quiet otherwise.
Waylon Francis (5.0) - When Diaz went down with a tough landing on his shoulder, Francis entered the match. There was not much to say about his 20 minutes on the field with no mistakes, which is a good thing, but little production.
Saad Abdul-Salaam (5.0) - Abdul-Salaam came in for Afful and was part of some late pushes by the Crew, but didn’t bring much to a side that needed to come back, down two goals.
Alexandru Matan (6.0) - When Matan came into the match late, he exploited the tired opponents. He had one moment where he hustled his way into the penalty area, but there was nothing on the end to cause problems for Atlanta.
Bradley Wright-Phillips (N/A) - Wright-Phillips was a late substitute with Matan in the 84th minute but didn’t get any chances on or off the ball to contribute.
Caleb Porter (4.5) - One big piece of credit for Porter is Fraser starting. Outside of that, the substitution decisions seemed odd. The on-field strategy was good for Columbus, and the team did well against Atlanta in the run of play, but when the Black & Gold went down, and Diaz got hurt, he brought in two defenders. Matan didn’t see the field until the 84th minute, after the team was down two goals for 10 minutes.