No, the Zombie you saw on Saturday night wasn’t early Halloween decorations. The Columbus Crew welcomed the month of October by bringing the team MLS Cup playoff hopes back from the dead with two sensational, last-gasp goals in the dying minutes of the game.
The Crew was in the process of writing the team’s season’s obituary, down 1-0 to the Red Bulls and having been completely stymied offensively throughout the night. Black & Gold substitutes, however, changed the complexion of the match and resulted in Columbus winning the game 2-1 and reviving postseason hopes.
Here’s how the Crew players performed.
Eloy Room (7.5) – Fans were angry with the Black & Gold goalkeeper for the goal conceded. However, Room was shielded from seeing the ball and the goal was more from skill and luck than poor play from Room. The goalkeeper should instead be credited with keeping Columbus in the contest, with three fantastic saves.
Pedro Santos (7.5) – Starting the contest as a left back, Santos moved further up the pitch once the Crew made changes and brought a better touch moving the ball into the attack. Santos was excellent both offensively and defensively for the Black & Gold and also suffered a team-leading five fouls, sacrificing his body to help the team.
Josh Williams (8.0) – Williams was excellent for Columbus on Saturday, leading the team defensively and sharing organizational duties to keep the team’s shape across the backline. Williams had six clearances, an interception, a tackle and a blocked shot and was strong in defense against the Red Bulls’ press.
Milos Degenek (7.5) – Perhaps more interesting than Degenek’s play, which was terrific for the Crew, was the way that Degenek was seen at the end of the match providing the post-game pep talk for the team. The Australian international seems to be stepping up as a leader for the Crew and backed up his talk with a team-leading eight clearances.
Steven Moreira (6.5) – The Red Bulls’ goal came off a poor clearance from Moreira, who kicked the ball straight to the New York midfielder. The right back has to do better on that ball, and while he was fine defensively, he didn’t have a huge impact on the defensive end. His biggest contribution of the night came on the Black & Gold’s second goal of the night, where his pass helped spring Columbus’ goal.
Aidan Morris (7.5) – Saturday night was a game made for the Crew’s young star. The midfielder’s willingness to step into challenges and consistently win possession in the midfield helped the Black & Gold press into the attack and kept the Red Bulls’ press from dominating. His willingness to range into the offensive third was finally rewarded on Columbus’ first goal that led to the equalizer.
Darlington Nagbe (5.5) – Nagbe’s control against the press was consistently on display and he had a team-leading 88 percent pass accuracy on his 50 passes. But the midfielder failed to close down on the New York goal with any urgency or pace. Too many of his 50 passes were slow and negative which consistently killed the Crew’s attack. Fans saw what Nagbe can bring when he is shifting play forward with his stellar passing ability on the Black & Gold’s first goal but Columbus needs Nagbe to do that for all 90 minutes, not just the final five.
Artur (6.5) – Artur had a fine 53 minutes before he was subbed off. The Brazilian midfielder had four tackles and worked his way into the Crew attack but failed to generate many chances.
Kevin Molino (6.5) – Molino contributed a shot for the Black & Gold, but too often was dispossessed by the New York defense. He continued working centrally throughout the night and to create opportunities through the middle, but ultimately didn’t yield to any results for Columbus.
Luis Diaz (5.5) – Diaz only managed 23 touches in his 78 minutes of game action, which is disappointing considering his pace torched the Red Bulls wing whenever he received the ball in space. He consistently worked the wing but struggled without a true target in the penalty box.
Erik Hurtado (4.5) – Hurtado failed to register a shot in his 69 minutes and lacked both the presence and the pace to insert himself into the Crew’s attack. The forward relies on good service and without the Black & Gold’s best playmaker, Hurtado never received the service he needed to challenge the Red Bulls’ goalkeeper.
Lucas Zelarayán (7.5) – An argument could be made that the 53rd minute sub came on too late for Columbus as Zelarayán was inserted immediately following the New York goal. However, with the time he was on the field, Zelarayán was the dynamic facilitator he is known for, picking up the ball up and pushing it into the attacking third. His quality shined and was ultimately rewarded on his nifty flick to help set up the first goal.
Derrick Etienne Jr. (10) – This is what a substitute is supposed to do. From the moment Etienne came on the field, he helped change the entire feel of the game. The Crew struggled to create chances all night and in about 25 minutes, Etienne had a team-leading five shots. No one else on the team had more than one. The best thing he did, of course, was scoring the two goals.
Jacen Russell-Rowe (8.0) – The MLS NEXT Pro Golden Boot winner also made an immediate impact off the bench. Russell-Rowe fought to get touches on the ball, circulating back and making runs forward to ensure he was integrated into the Black & Gold attack. He made incisive, line-breaking runs that challenged a defense that had seemed comfortable all night sitting and defending. His movement, speed and fight all helped contribute to both of Columbus’ goals.
Mohamed Farsi (8.0) – The other Capybara standout was substituted in the 78th minute for the Black and Gold and while not quite as impactful as his Crew 2 teammate, was equally important for changing how the Crew attacked. His substitution allowed Pedro Santos to play as a winger and gave the team a different look and a more dynamic passing threat. Farsi was offensively impactful too, contributing an assist on the Etienne goal, being willing to push forward into the attack and forcing the Red Bulls to react instead of being on the front foot.
Caleb Porter (7.5) – If one is to put the blame on the coach when a team’s lack of mental discipline squanders away points in the final moments of a game, then it's only fair that when the team finds a way to win an important game late, he must also receive the credit. Yes, the offense was agonizingly plodding for 80-plus minutes of the game and the Crew waited to substitute their best player until they were already in a hole, but at the end of the day, Porter and his team found a way to win.