The Columbus Crew came into Lower.com Field following a disappointing 3-3 draw at the San Jose Earthquakes last week. While the first half looked like a Crew side that struggled, adjustments from all aspects of the team turned into a strong 2-1 victory against Toronto FC.
We take a look at how all those involved performed in a match that temporarily puts the Black & Gold at the top of the MLS Eastern Conference.
Eloy Room (7.5) – Room didn’t have a lot of work to do in the first two games this season outside of set pieces until Saturday. The goalkeeper had five saves, with two coming in big moments to keep the Crew within striking distance. Toronto’s goal came off a secondary chance from a set piece, but it wasn’t anything Room would be expected to save. Poor set piece defending isn’t going to tarnish a big game by the Crew’s goalkeeper.
Pedro Santos (6.0) – Santos was in a battle all day against Toronto winger Jayden Nelson. It was an even matchup, with each getting the best of each other throughout the game. Against Toronto, Santos’ side was the focus of the Toronto attack and he held well considering the extra attention. The Portuguese had the pass of the game, finding a charging Yaw Yeboah with a big cross from midfield, even though Toronto stopped it with a great goal stopping tackle.
Jonathan Mensah (7.5) – The Black & Gold’s captain had a strong game. Toronto didn’t score anything from the run of play and Mensah put a goal scoring header on net, but Toronto goalkeeper Alex Bono made a great save. On Derrick Etienne Jr.’s goal, Mensah headed the ball to the open winger prior to the finish.
Milos Degenek (7.0) – Toronto came out with a different formation and it took the Crew some time to adjust. Once Columbus did, TFC was pretty silent on offense. Part of the reason is the consistent play of Degenek. While there were no huge tackles or shots on goal for Degenek, a quiet game is a great game. Degenek was involved in the set piece goal, but was left alone to try to defend, which doesn’t reflect his day.
Steven Moreira (7.0) – Moreira played well down the right sideline. While he didn’t get as central as he had against the Earthquakes, Moreira’s passing was fantastic, connecting on 84.6 percent of his passes. Also, defensively Moreira’s pressing gained possession seven times and he intercepted four Toronto passes. This was his best defensive performance this season.
Darlington Nagbe (6.5) – On Saturday, Nagbe completed his highest passing total of the season, hitting 57 passes at a 93.4 percent clip, which is actually lower than normal. Toronto played wide throughout the game and avoided fouling Nagbe. That gave the Ohio native more space to move the ball down the field and get the Crew’s offense into places to challenge.
Artur (7.0) – Artur played his first 90-minute match of the season and it was another strong game. While the first match of the season was emotional for the Brazilian midfielder, with Artur taking shots from deep, and almost hitting, Saturday was calmer. The Brazilian had areas where he would have shot in the first game but instead opted for moving the ball to teammates. Defensively, Artur blocked two passes, intercepted three and had three tackles.
Lucas Zelarayán (8.0) – What else can be said about Zelarayán? While his match on Saturday wasn’t as dominant as last week, his goal was highlight reel material. Zelarayán capitalized on a line drive shot through a crowded penalty area. The Argentine still created six goal-scoring chances, including a close free kick that went just wide of the net.
Yaw Yeboah (6.0) – Yeboah played only 52 minutes but recovered from a more difficult game in San Jose. The winger had a big chance at his first Crew goal on a cross from Santos, but a last-second tackle stopped the chance. Yeboah added a shot on target in the first half too.
Derrick Etienne Jr. (8.5) – Etienne was selected as the man of the match by the Crew for a reason. He continued his breakout season with a goal and assist. There could have been more too when Etienne sent a header on goal in the first half that was stopped by Bono. When Luis Díaz came in as a substitute, Etienne took advantage of the space and punished Toronto with the match-winning goal in the 65th minute. Also, at the closing moments of the match, it was game management by Etienne that took time off the clock for the victory.
Miguel Berry (6.0) – Berry’s 67 minutes on the field weren’t as dangerous as the first two of the season. He had one shot on target that was saved. Toronto’s three-center back system didn’t give Berry much room to work in the penalty box. The forward did add a blocked pass, showing that he’s much more than a goal scorer.
Luis Díaz (6.0) – Diaz didn’t score a goal and missed an open chance in the 80th minute, but his impact on the field was noticeable. The speedy winger created space and frustrated the Toronto defense. That space allowed others to find areas to work that they didn’t have in the first half.
Gyasi Zardes (5.0) – Zardes played the last 23 minutes of the match and intercepted a pass and had three shot-creating chances on offense. Unfortunately for Zardes, the moment that will be remembered most was an open chance that was off target.
Caleb Porter (7.5) – Porter continued the year with the third straight game using the same starting 11, something Columbus didn’t do once all of 2021. While Toronto’s 3-4-3 caught the Crew off guard, Porter adjusted the press and moved Zelarayán into a deeper midfield role, which paid off.
Also, the focus on game management that hurt the Crew in San Jose was noticeable at the end of the match, when the home team sealed the game away. Set pieces are still an issue that will be the talking point going into the week’s training before New York Red Bulls welcomes the Black & Gold next weekend.