Columbus Crew 2 started the team’s season first-ever season in the new MLS NEXT Pro reserve league with three consecutive road games. The Black & Gold will now head into their first home game on a two-match win streak after Crew 2 defeated Philadelphia Union II 1-0 Saturday night at Subaru Park in Chester, Pennsylvania.
Sunday’s matchup saw multiple first-team players loaned down to the reserve team in order to get players minutes. Crew 2 started three familiar names to first-team fans in center back Josh Williams, winger Alexandru Matan and midfielder Aidan Morris. Both Williams and Morris are coming off injuries and needed minutes to be ready to contribute to the first team.
The game against Philadelphia was highly competitive from the opening whistle. Through the opening 10 minutes of the game, neither side could break down the other, resulting in a midfield battle with little offense provided.
Midway through the first half, the game started to come alive, as both teams created half-chances, but had nothing to show for it. Crew 2 continued to push for the opener, looking to create but, like the first team the day before on the same field, struggled with the final product. Aidan Morris and Jesus Bueno would exchange yellow cards, with fouls on each other that earned them.
Matan was the main source of offense for Columbus as he continued to bombard the Union II defense, but it was clear he had not spent much time working with the Crew 2 attackers around him. In the 30th minute, Philadelphia had the best chance of the match to that point, with a shot that went wide of the post. While it was a good chance created, the play was flagged offside.
In the second minute of first half stoppage time, Union II again had a good opportunity with a shot that went over the crossbar, thus ending the first half at a 0-0 stalemate. The Black & Gold did not have a shot on goal in the first 45 minutes.
The second half started brightly for Crew 2 with defender Mohamed Farsi’s 48 minute shot that whizzed just past the post. Six minutes later, Columbus took the lead thanks to a header from forward Jacen Russell-Rowe header, assisted by Matan. That goal was the second goal in Crew 2 history and the first for Russell-Rowe.
In the 57th minute, Philadelphia had another chance, but it was thwarted by Crew 2 goalkeeper Brady Scott. Scott, playing in his second game of the season on loan from the first team, recorded his first win and first clean sheet with the Black & Gold, making three saves in the process.
The last 15 minutes of the game saw Union II push for the equalizer. Philadelphia had a big chance with 11 minutes to play when Scott was caught outside his penalty area, but Crew 2 defender Philip Quinton made a goal-saving tackle to maintain Columbus’ lead.
In the end, The Crew 2 hung on for the team’s second straight 1-0 victory. Crew 2 had 56 percent of the ball in the game and made a total of 618 passes throughout the game. Union II outshot the Black and Gold 7-6 with a 4-3 advantage in shots on goal.
First Teamers got much needed minutes
As stated earlier, Williams, Matan and Morris got much-needed minutes in the match. For Matan, this game was used to get him confidence. He has struggled in MLS play since coming to Columbus last year and this game was the perfect opportunity for him to play and build that confidence.
Morris made his name when stepping into the first-team starting lineup in the 2020 MLS Cup Final for Darlington Nagbe and performing well. But after tearing his ACL last season, and with the return of midfielder Artur, he has struggled to find minutes in a loaded midfield.
Williams suffered an injury in the preseason and is just recently back for selection. This game provided him some time in real game action after returning to training.
Momentum going into the home opener
Crew 2 played the first three games of the season on the road, going 2-1. But that will all change in the next game. The Black & Gold will return fans to Historic Crew Stadium next weekend for the home opener.
Speaking of returning home, Columbus will open up the team’s home slate, hosting Orlando City B at Historic Crew Stadium on Friday, April, 15. The kickoff for the game is scheduled for 7 p.m. ET and tickets are still available.