After a long, grueling preseason, Columbus Crew 2, playing in the new MLS NEXT Pro league got the team’s first taste of competitive action. Crew 2 had five preseason friendlies to get up to fitness and build some much-needed chemistry. It was not enough, however, as Crew 2 fell 2-0 to Inter Miami II.
The Crew 2 roster is made up of players from six different countries, and almost all of these players were playing together for the first time on Saturday in Fort Lauderdale. In the end, the difference between the two sides tonight was a second-half brace from Inter’s Emerson Rodriguez.
The game started off in the Crew defensive half. Miami started the game on the front foot, getting a good look at the Crew goal within the first minute of the game. Through the first six minutes of the game, Inter had the majority of the possession and continued to hound the Crew goal.
This young Black & Gold team settled into the game quite nicely after the opening couple minutes of the game. After the Crew found its footing, the next 15 minutes were a stalemate. Neither team could get much going in the opening 20 minutes, with each team registering one shot.
Through the opening 26 minutes of the match, Crew 2 was the only team to have a touch in the opponent's 18-yard box. But Columbus got the first look at goal, as Columbus captain Marco Micaletto had a shot, but it went wide. Inter Miami had its best chance of the first half when the team had a free kick about 24 yards out. Diving goalkeeper Brady Scott, on loan from the first team, made a phenomenal save to keep the score level.
The rest of the first half was a battle of the midfield with only one clear-cut chance that came for the hosts. In the 42nd minute, Inter Miami’s Robbie Robinson rounded Scott but put his shot into the side of the net. Scott held strong through the first half, thwarting any Miami shot that came his way.
The second half was a different story. Inter came out of the locker room on the front foot, with the first six minutes of the second half played in the Columbus half. It was not long after that Miami took the lead. In the 55th minute, Rodriguez gave the hosts the lead with a goal that proved to be the game-winner.
The early second-half pressure from Miami did not stop there, as the Crew tried to stay strong, and get momentum back. Bllack & Goldhead coach Laurent Courtois made his first substitution, bringing in Jacen Russell-Rowe for Michael Vang. Less than 10 minutes after the opening goal, Rodriguez got his brace and doubled the deficit for Crew 2.
That two-goal deficit proved to be too much for Columbus. Scott made a couple of big saves to keep the scoreline 2-0. Though the Black & Gold dominated the possession, it was the hosts that were more dangerous with the ball, with Crew 2 being outshot 13-8.
As noted, it is important to note that this is the first competitive game that these players have played together. Inter Miami, formally known as Fort Lauderdale FC of the United Soccer League, has played together for some time. A majority of the Inter roster has been together for at least a season, whereas Crew 2 just met each other around two months ago. As the season goes on, team chemistry will improve, but it is important to note that it may take some time for them to get going.
Crew 2 will play the team’s second of three straight matches to open the season on the road. The Black & Gold return to action Sunday, April 3 against Chicago Fire 2 at Seatgeek Stadium, home of the NWSL’s Chicago Red Stars.