On Saturday, the Columbus Crew needed a hero. The team ended up with two.
With only one win in the past nine league games, and after being held scoreless in their past two matches, the Crew got some much-needed help in the 2-1 win at Atlanta United in the form of captain and Jonathan Mensah and goalkeeper Eloy Room. Mensah led the Black & Gold out of the gate with a headed goal in the first minute of the game and Room put on his best performance of the season to hold the dynamic Atlanta offense to a single goal and preserve Columbus’ first road win of the season.
Both players were rewarded for their heroics when they were named to MLS’s Team of the Week for Week 14. Room was named as the starting goalkeeper this week, while Mensah was named to the bench. They join midfielders Darlington Nagbe and Lucas Zelerayan, winger Derrick Ettiene Jr. and defender Pedro Santos as the team’s fifth and sixth players to earn the distinction this season.
Looking at Mensah’s performance, his designation stems not only from his tone-setting goal that allowed the Crew to play on the front foot for the entirety of the evening but also from his stout defensive play. His efforts throughout the match helped limit what is a very potent United attack. Mensah led the Black & Gold in clearances with seven, and also contributed two tackles. He played a clean game and limited the mistakes across the backline.
Mensah’s role as a leader of the Columbus defense helped solidify the team, particularly when shifting from a four-man backline to five in the back. The team hasn’t played this way very much this season and Mensah was critical in communicating responsibilities across the defensive line.
Similarly to Mensah, Room also avoided some of the mistakes he had been guilty of recently and instead turned in a magnificent performance. Room’s eight saves in this match were tied for the most in his career.
The goalkeeper’s composure at the end of the game was particularly noteworthy. After a Dom Dwyer bicycle kick goal in the first minute of stoppage time, Atlanta had two additional chances to deny the Crew the full three points. Room made a diving stop to deny a rising shot that looked certain to reach the top right corner and a reaction save to keep the ball out of the bottom corner. This last save not only stopped a goal but Room directed the save straight to a Black & Gold player, who was able to clear the danger.
Both players are no strangers to making the MLS Team of the Week. This is Room’s first Team of the Week this season, but his sixth in his MLS career. Mensah has received the honor nine times.
Mensah and Room have had up and down campaigns this season, but their performances last week are possible signs that they are continuing to improve and come into form as the Crew heads into the international break.