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Games Grades: Crew vs. D.C. United

See how the Black & Gold players perfoormed in a much-needed victory.

MLS: D.C. United at Columbus Crew SC Leah Stauffer-USA TODAY Sports

The Columbus Crew was in need of a victory, having gone winless in the team’s past four Major League Soccer games, and delivered on Saturday night at Lower.com Field. The Black & Gold snapped a scoring drought of over 360 minutes with a 3-0 win against longtime rivals D.C. United.

Here is how the Crew players performed in the victory.

Starters

Eloy Room (8.0) – A shutout is always a good indicator of a goalkeeper's performance, and Room’s second straight clean sheet was impressive. He certainly benefited from a few missed opportunities from D.C. players, but overall kept good positioning throughout the game and was able to make the necessary stops to keep United off the board. His organization of the backline was also much improved, and D.C. was never particularly dangerous on set pieces.

Pedro Santos (9.5) – This was as near to a perfect game as Santos has played in Columbus, certainly all season. Needing to step up with Lucas Zelarayán starting the game on the bench, the left back showed that he had been taking notes by striking a beautiful set piece goal and snaping the Crew’s scoreless drought. D.C. attempted to challenge him down the left side throughout the night, but Santos played outstanding defense and prevented the away side from exploiting any gaps down the left side.

Jonathan Mensah (8.0) – The Crew’s captain played well oat center back and avoided some of the mistakes that have plagued the Black & Gold so far this season. His leadership deserves credit and he remains an integral part of a defense that appears to have found its form.

Josh Williams (8.5) – Making his first start of the season, Williams played superbly for the Crew. His assist on the second goal was a perfectly-weighted and precisely-timed long ball. Beyond his offensive contributions, Williams was solid defensively with four clearances and two interceptions, which really undersells the value he brought to the backline with his confidence defending and the trust that he has with Mensah.

Steven Moreira (N/A) – Moreira didn’t play long enough to judge his performance as an injury took him out of the game in the 10th minute.

Darlington Nagbe (9.0) – The midfielder had the goal of the game to close things out in the second half. Nagbe’s volley was justification enough for a high grade, but he played well before his goal of the week candidate. His ability to stay collected under pressure is underrated and helped the Crew maintain possession and build through the back countless times. Without Zelarayán in the starting lineup, Nagbe was able to play more positive soccer.

Artur (7.5) – The Brazilian had a quiet game for the team, and while he took two shots, neither of them seriously troubled United goalkeeper Jon Kempin. He played well defensively and helped facilitate the ball.

Aidan Morris (9.0) – Morris played his best minutes since the 2020 MLS Cup Final against United. Bringing the aggressive spirit and willingness to stick himself into challenges, Morris set the tone for the team for the entire night. While his efforts didn’t directly show up on the score sheet, Morris played a critical role in getting the team to play at an elevated level. The Crew fed off his energy throughout the night.

Derick Etienne Jr. (9.0) – Not only did he score a terrific goal, but Etienne also played well throughout the night. Seemingly having regained the magic touch he had through the first three games of the season, the winger played confident, dangerous soccer, consistently threatening D.C.’s backline.

James Igbekeme (8.0) – Igbekeme had a strong game on the left side for the Crew on Saturday night. He was able to draw the foul that led to Santos’ free kick goal and played well working between Nagbe and Berry. He showed again he is a strong option as a left winger as he works to grow both with the team and in the league.

Miguel Berry (7.0) – Berry played much better in this game than he has in recent performances. Though he still finished his 70-minute shift without a shot on target, his positioning pushed the defensive line of D.C. deeper, creating more space for others to create chances. There were several opportunities that he was close to finishing, but this game proved that the Columbus striker can contribute to goals just by challenging that backline.

Substitutes

Marlon Hariston (8.0) – The unplanned early substitute for the injured Moreira in the 16th minute played well out of his typical position. Hariston immediately slotted into a strong backline and made several key clearances to help keep the clean sheet for the team. Hariston was also effective in pushing the ball forward through the midfield and his 89 percent pass accuracy helped keep possession for the team and allowed them to play down the wing.

Lucas Zelarayán (7.0) – Coming in for Berry in the 70th minute, Zelarayán had a good opportunity to work back into game form without breaking the continuity of the midfield line. While he is certainly not the team’s No. 9 of the future, Zelarayán performed well in the role and was able to deliver the strong corner that led to Nagbe’s outstanding goal.

Yaw Yeboah (N/A) – An 81at minute substitute, Yeboah did exactly what was asked of him in coming on for Etienne by helping the Crew hold onto the three-goal lead, but he didn’t have much time.

Head coach

Caleb Porter (8.0) – This game was as close as one comes to a must-win in April for Porter, and without the Crew’s best player in the starting lineup, the head coach faced an uphill climb from the start. The formation he put out was able to handle exactly what United threw at the Black & Gold. Understanding that D.C. really didn’t want to play with the ball, Columbus sat back and let the game come. Clearly the team has worked on finishing chances, and their lock-down defensive identity has been demonstrated in the last two results.