Tuesday night was a good evening for the Columbus Crew. The Black & Gold earned an important three points with a come from behind 2-1 win against the New York Red Bulls at Lower.com Field. Darlington Nagbe and Miguel Berry came up with the second half goals in what could be a victory to turn around the season.
The match followed a similar pattern seen throughout most of 2021, including a lackluster first half followed by a strong fight and even a comeback in the second half. The comebacks have been part of the story for the defending MLS Cup champions with 11 points earned from losing positions. The year has also had the emergence of exciting young players in Ohio’s capital.
Here is what we learned from Tuesday night’s Crew victory.
Miguel Berry deserves an extension in Columbus
Berry has done enough in 2021 to stay right here. The 23-year-old striker born in Barcelona is now a Columbus Crew folk hero. Berry came off the bench in the 70th minute and scored the winner in the 88th. It was the fifth goal this season for the Crew’s first-round MLS SuperDraft pick in 2020 and his fourth goal off the bench. Berry’s goals have all been in comeback efforts with four helping to earn the team points.
With the last two goals the forward has put in the back of the net, he has shown composure in the penalty box beyond his years and a keen sense to follow shots. Off the pitch, head coach Caleb Porter has said he is absorbing and learning from the coaches and players. His willingness to listen as a young player has made him better and he is the Crew’s backup striker that the team has been searching for.
Sure, Berry still has a lot of work to do to become a staple striker in MLS. With his clutch goalscoring ability and positive attitude in training, he can be better and a fixture on the Crew’s roster. As the second top goalscorer in Columbus, he deserves a 2022 roster spot and beyond.
Alexandru Matan is an impact player
While Berry is taking the plaudits as the young goalscorer, Romanian Alexandru Matan deserves acclaim as a young playmaker on the Black & Gold’s roster. The 22 year old was signed by the Crew last winter as a future piece to play on the wing or even as a central attacking midfielder. Matan’s impact on this Crew offense has been vital to keeping this team in the playoff chase.
Off the bench in recent weeks, Matan has been a bright spot of aggressive dribbling in an otherwise slow-moving Crew offense. On Tuesday, he came on in the 60th minute and was a part of both goals. For the first goal, Matan just ran right at the Red Bulls defense and shot on target with a rebound header by Nagbe going in. On the second goal, Matan got the ball in open space after a possible foul. Instead of looking towards the referee for the whistle, he kept running and began the play that ended with Berry’s winner.
Tuesday night wasn’t the only time we’ve seen Matan do these things. In the Hell is Real Derby win in August, he ran at the FC Cincinnati defense to help create the two goals. In other matches where the Crew came up short of a result, Matan been made an impact. Porter said the key for Matan is to play like he does off the bench for a full 90 minutes.
In what’s been a tough run for this team since late July, Berry and Matan have been a breath of fresh air. They are the future and they are showing that in the present.
First halves are still not good enough
Now, the win is great for the Black & Gold, but we have to be realistic. The first half on Tuesday night was uninspired once again from the Crew and Porter knew this. In the halftime discussion on Bally Sports, he said his players looked like a “deer in the headlights” after an early injury to winger Pedro Santos. After the game, he told the media that he got after his team in the locker room at the break.
It makes sense. The team looked like they have for much of this losing stretch with slow-moving offense and prone to mess-ups at the back. The first moment of the game, Santos got in a head collision with Kyle Duncan and the Columbus players kind of froze after that. Alas, Porter’s halftime talk got through to his starters and impact substitutes. The final result was a Crew win in a second half that Porter wants to “clone” going forward.
In the last 10 games, Columbus has gone down in the first half on seven occasions. Of the 29 goals this team has scored, only 10 have been in the first 45 minutes. The Black & Gold needs to have a first half in games as good if not better than the second.