The Columbus Crew made a slew of new signings throughout the offseason. But, none may have been as big as the two new names in the starting lineup for the first time Saturday afternoon when the Columbus Crew earned a 4-0 home win against the Vancouver Whitecaps to open the new year in Yaw Yeboah and Milos Degenek.
Let’s start with Yaw Yeboah. The Ghanian winger was very good in his first match for the Crew. The right side of the pitch should be a worry for opposing teams with Yeboah and right back Steven Moreira playing down the right flank. The wing play of both Yeboah on the right and Derrick Etienne Jr. on the left really helped create space for playmaker Lucas Zelarayan and helped take the burden off the Argentine to have to create everything himself.
“We have wingers that can threaten, and be goal dangerous,” head coach Caleb Porter said in his post-match press conference.
“I thought he was lively and sharp.”
Porter’s assessment of the new winger showed during the match, with “the second goal coming through him. He unlocked the opponent many times.” On the goal he assisted, Yeboah received a pass from Moreira, took a couple of dribbles, and unleashed an inch-perfect pass to set up Etienne.
Though he looked sharp while on the pitch, Yeboah is not fit for 90 minutes just yet. “He needs to get fit. He is only 60 minutes fit,” Porter said.
Yeboah also proved to be very good defensively and help Moriera on the right side. The pace that the Ghanian brings also helps keep the opposition wing backs in check because of his ability to transition from defense to offense so quickly. Yeboah’s transition ability was evident when in the 52nd minute when he received a pass from Etienne and looked to be through on goal. The trailing defender, Jakob Nerwinski, pulled Yeboah back, and in the process picked up his second yellow card.
While the offense went rampant on Saturday, the defense had very little to do. But make no mistake, this group was solid when called upon with new Australian international center back Milos Degenek paired up with club captain Jonathon Mensah. Degenek saw, he was impressive in the little action he saw.
“He won’t jump out at you, but if you watch football, and watch central defenders, he is everywhere he needs to be,” Porter said of Degenek. “He is a throwback, hard-nosed central defender. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that we had a clean sheet today.”
The Crew defense held Vancouver to just seven total shots, with zero of them being on frame. Degenek was very good in the air and battled to win the ball every chance he had. He was very comfortable in possession and made the right decisions on what to do when he had the ball. The Australian did not put a wrong foot in for his first competitive match for the Black & Gold, and with 33 matches to go, Degenek will look to continue to put in performances as he did against the Whitecaps.
It was a good opening-day performance from the Crew overall, but the two new signings who got on the field made their mark. Porter and the Black & Gold hope these displays were just the beginning of two of the newest members of Columbus’ team.