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Games Grades: Crew vs. New York City FC

How the Black & Gold players performed against the defending MLS Cup champions.

MLS: Columbus Crew SC at New York City FC
The Crew were unable to secure any points in New York, falling 2-0.
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

In the tight confines of Yankee Stadium, the Columbus Crew was unable to break through against New York City FC on Saturday, falling to the Pidgeons 2-0. An early goal by NYCFC changed any sort of game plan. After getting some control of the game, a mistake at the back allowed for an easy doubling of the lead in the second half.

The game marked the fifth scoreless performance of the season for the Crew and a second loss away from Lower.com Field.

Here’s how we graded the individual performances of the Black & Gold.

Starters

Eloy Room (6.5) – Room didn’t have a poor game despite the two allowed goals on the night. While an argument could be made that both goals were savable, each resulted from poor efforts across the defensive line, and Room made three saves to prevent City from increasing the advantage.

Steven Moreira (5.5) – The right back had a fine, albeit quiet, game in his return from injury. For most of the match, Moreira performed well and it was good to see him back in the starting lineup and able to play the full 90 minutes. However, he had an opportunity to prevent the first goal, with a failed challenge on Talles Magno that allowed him to have an easy shot.

Jonathan Mensah (5.0) – Mensah was caught out of position and napping as Vantine Castellanos cherry-picked the Columbus backline during a free kick the other to make the score 2-0. Mensah has struggled as of late and this was another unsatisfactory performance for the player who previously has been the consistent defensive anchor for the Crew. Fans will hope he is able to regain his form soon.

Josh Williams (5.5) – Williams was the other half of the Crew’s defensive lapse on the Castellanos death blow, and he was never able to atone for the mistake. While his offensive contributions were significant, pushing forward on set pieces and aggressively linking play forward, Williams was unable to make as much of an impact.

Pedro Santos (7.0) – Santos was the best defender Columbus had in this game and did an excellent job stepping in to make challenges throughout the game with four tackles won. Despite it appearing as though NYCFC was intentionally attacking his side of the field, Santos proved up to the challenge. Beyond being the best defender, he also contributed significantly offensively, including his near coast-to-coast run that almost resulted in a goal.

Artur (6.0) – The Brazilian played a large role in many of the Crew’s promising offensive attacks and was useful in possession, completing 91.7 percent of his passes. While neither of his two shots were on target, his offensive contributions continue to help create chances for the team. However, his decision making in the final third and the quality of his service into the penalty box were both lacking against NYCFC.

James Igbekeme (6.0) – Igbekeme participated in what was, at times, excellent build-up play for the Black & Gold, but also in their failures to convert in the final third. Playing back in his more central role, Igbekeme missed an absolute sitter in the box, skying it 20 yards over the net, in the 33rd minute, which was emblematic of not only his own, but the entire team’s struggles throughout the match.

Darlington Nagbe (7.5) – It’s difficult to criticize Nagbe in this game. He strung together passes, helped the team in transition and kept the Crew’s possession countless times. He posted what is to him, a pedestrian 96.1 percent passing accuracy in a game where Columbus was pressing late into the game. Ultimately though, the Black & Gold were unable to do anything with his passing, and Nagbe was unable to produce a magic touch to help the team score.

Derrick Etienne Jr. (7.5) – Etienne constantly pushed down the right side until he switched to the left later in the second half. He was the Crew’s most dynamic player but struggled to connect on the final pass. He created the best opportunities for the Crew until he was substituted in the 81st minute. This is the same quality of performance that has resulted in goals in earlier games this season but Etienne was ultimately not rewarded in the limited space of Yankee Stadium.

Miguel Berry (4.0) – Berry was more or less a non-factor in his 71 minutes on the field. His one shot, not even on goal, is not what the Crew needs from the lone striker. He did complete nine of his 14 passes, but only had 24 touches of the ball. With these performances occurring more often than not, the summer transfer window and the chance at a new striker can not come soon enough for Columbus.

Lucas Zelarayán (7.0) – If Zelarayán has a flaw, it ultimately comes down to the fact that he sometimes attempts to do too much. The Argentine was brilliant at times playing on the left win in the first half before moving centrally in the second, showing off the talent that makes him one of the best players in MLS. But at other moments, he forced the game rather than letting it come to him. Ultimately Zelarayán is at his best when he is allowed to be part of a creative effort, rather than the sole creator.

Substitutes

Luis Diaz (6.0) – Diaz still hasn’t been able to find the electrifying speed that can make him a dangerous substitution against tired legs. The small field didn’t help, as he was unable to find the spaces he needs to be effective.

Erik Hurtado (5.0) – Hurtado came on in the 71st minute but failed to have any more impact than Berry did. He didn’t register a shot and only had seven touches in 18 minutes.

Yaw Yeboah (N/A) – Yeboah was an 80th minute substitute, and only had four touches over the final 10 minutes, not enough time to get involved in the game.

Head coach

Caleb Porter (5.0) – Porter’s continued failures on the road have been well noted, as Saturday’s loss drops the manager to 3-17-15 over his past 35 matches away from home. While playing the defending champions on their oddly sized field provides explanation enough for Saturday night’s performance, those excuses are overshadowed in the context of a season. At times it’s difficult to see why the team, which plays quality soccer, is failing to secure results and Saturday was another example with no danger in the final third and an inability to convert on the created chances.