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Game Grades: Crew vs. Vancouver Whitecaps

How the Black & Gold players performed in the first game of 2022.

MLS: Vancouver Whitecaps at Columbus Crew SC Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Columbus Crew got off to a flying start in the 2022 MLS campaign with a dominant 4-0 home win against the Vancouver Whitecaps. The Black & Gold took the lead early in the game and never looked back.

Let’s take a look at how each player fared in the first match of 2022.

Starters

Eloy Room (6.0) - The goalkeeper had next to nothing to do in this match, thanks to the Crew’s dominance and Vancouver’s inability to threaten the Columbus goal. Regardless, Room did what he was required to do, including controlling his 18-yard box and helping the backline play out of pressure.

Pedro Santos (7.5) - The Black & Gold fan base can take a deep breath after watching Santos in this match. Yes, Vancouver wasn’t necessarily dangerous, but Santos was excellent in his new home at left back. Santos was a constant fixture in the Crew’s attacking half, providing width and support to the attack the whole match. In addition to that, the Whitecaps were unable to get anything going on Santos’ side of the field and he defended well in 1 v. 1 situations. The Portuguese also did an excellent job counter pressing to win the ball back high in the Vancouver half.

Jonathan Mensah (6.5) - The Crew’s captain was great again on Saturday at center back. He wasn’t necessarily busy, but Mensah was excellent when called upon against Vancouver. Mensah controlled the game in the air and was excellent in possession when the Crew built from the back. The center also did an excellent job leading and organizing the defense for 90 minutes.

Milo’s Degenek (6.5) - Degenek was very good in his Black & Gold debut on Saturday. The Australian's biggest contribution was his ability in possession. Degenek did an excellent job of helping the Crew build their attack out of the back and switch the point of attack. His positioning was also solid and he allowed Columbus to pin the Whitecaps in their own half with his ability to win long balls when the Black & Gold counter-pressed.

Steven Moreira (7.0) - The right back looks ready to go for his first full year with the Crew. Moreira helped Columbus dominate his side of the pitch for the entire game and was excellent with his positioning and 1 v. 1 defending. He also did a good job making overlapping runs to help the wingers create overloads in the attack.

Darlington Nagbe (6.5) - Nagbe was as smooth as you like on Saturday. He played a huge part for the Black & Gold on Saturday in breaking pressure in central midfield. Nagbe also was excellent at winning second balls off of aerial challenges when Vancouver played long.

Artur (8.0) - Artur was excellent in his return to first-team action against the Whitecaps after nearly a full season of injuries. The Brazilian was named the man of the match on Saturday and for good reason. Artur was everywhere and played a huge part both in possession for the Crew and as a ball winner in the central midfield. He also almost scored twice from long range efforts, including hitting the crossbar. There’s no doubt that Columbus is much better when Artur is healthy and able to contribute.

Lucas Zelarayan (6.5) - Zelarayan is another player who got off to a great start to the season. Excellent under pressure, the Argentine looked confident and creative on the ball for the Black & Gold. His movement was also very good and allowed him to receive the ball in good positions to pose a threat to the Whitecap backline. Zelarayan capped off a great team performance with his own goal in the 86th minute to put the Crew up four.

Yaw Yeboah (6.5) - Crew fans got a great look at the potential that Yeboah possesses on the wing in his debut. Yeboah was seemingly always in the right position to be dangerous, he just lacked the final pass or shot needed to convert. Yeboah’s speed and movement off the ball were what he used to separate himself from the defense and create danger. At times, the Ghanian was guilty of doing a bit too much on the ball and overcomplicating play. However, Yeboah earned an assist thanks to an excellent diagonal ball and was fouled to earn a red card.

Derrick Etienne Jr. (8.0) - Etienne was very good for Columbus in this match. Etienne took advantage of a great ball from Yeboah for his goal and threatened the Vancouver backline from the first minute. He did an excellent job of supporting both Santos and Miguel Berry in attack thanks to his movement and was also excellent on the Crew’s press and his pressure led to a lot of errant passes and giveaways.

Miguel Berry (6.5) - The surprise selection in the starting 11, Berry performed well on Saturday. The forward got the Crew on the board in the eighth minute thanks to a good turn and shot that deflected. Berry also did a good job combining with the Black & Gold midfield to help move the team forward into the attacking half. At times, however, there was some miscommunication in possession between Berry and the Columbus backline, who played long balls when Berry checked back to receive the ball at his feet.

Subtitues

Aiden Morris (6.5) - Another Crew midfielder making his long-awaited return, Morris did well for the Crew. In his 20 minute stint, Morris did an excellent job as a ball winner, which is his natural inclination in the central midfield. He also did a good job helping Columbus in possession and switching the point of attack through the central midfield.

Luis Diaz (6.5) - After being subbed on in the 69th minute, Diaz provided instant energy for the Black & Gold. The winger was a constant threat running at or behind the Vancouver backline and eventually converted the Crew’s third goal. Diaz also did a good job applying pressure on Vancouver when in possession.

Gyasi Zardes (5.5) - Zardes entered the match in the 73rd minute to huge applause. In his 20 minutes, Zardes looked sharp, including a great assist to Diaz. The U.S. international was a constant threat in the penalty box and very much looked the part of an in-form striker.

James Igbekeme (N/A) - The new central midfielder did not play long enough to have a huge impact on the match. However, he showed some positive qualities on the ball in possession and Crew fans should be excited to get more of a look at him soon.

Alexandru Matan (N/A) - Matan did not play long enough to be able to dissect his performance. However, he was lively and willing to attack from the flank and centrally and showed several positive signs in his brief cameo.

Head coach

Caleb Porter (8.0) - Porter’s game plan and player selection were excellent on Saturday. Columbus was ready to go from the first whistle and Porter’s player selection set the Crew up really well to press Vancouver’s 3-5-2 shape and frustrate them in possession. His player selection also allowed the Black & Gold to create advantages in possession against the Whitecaps and break the opponent down, leading to dangerous chances throughout the match.