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Game Grades: Crew vs. Charlotte FC

A look at how the players performed in Saturday’s home draw against Charlotte.

Sam Fahmi - Massive Report

On Saturday, the Columbus Crew returned to Major League Soccer regular season play and although the team earned a point, a second half Charlotte FC goal ruined the welcome back party. In a 1-1 match where the Black & Gold pounced on a mistake and were then caught open on a deflection, the players who were available put in a range of performances.

Let’s take a look at how these players performed.

Starters

Eloy Room (6.0) – Columbus’ goalkeeper wasn’t challenged much in the match, but did make two key saves in the 90 minutes. Unfortunately for Room, his second save of the evening deflected in for the lone Charlotte goal. While his first reaction save in the second half was strong, his follow-up on the subsequent goal didn’t come close.

Miloš Degenek (6.5) – Degenek played well, had a highlight reel nutmeg in the first half and even put a shot on goal in the contest. Defensively, Degenek cleared away three balls and tried to get in the way of the shot on the goal without any luck.

Josh Williams (6.5) – Williams anchored the backline, playing the central center back role in a back three. The Crew veteran made five clearances and had an interception on the backline. Williams didn’t have a chance to impact the goal but played a sound match in control of the defense.

Jalil Anibaba (6.0) – In his first MLS start of the season, Anibaba had four clearances and two blocked shots. Passing-wise, however, Anibaba’s accuracy was the worst of the three center backs, connecting on 76.8 percent of his 56 passes. He also only completed three of his 12 long passes compared to more accurate long passes for Degenek and Williams.

Steven Moreira (6.0) – Moreira had a less effective evening than usual. It wasn’t that he made mistakes, he didn’t make his presence known on the offensive side of the field. Moreira contributed defensively with two clearances and a blocked shot.

Derrick Etienne Jr. (6.5) – Of the two wing backs, Etienne fared better on offense than Moreira. The Haitian was fouled three times while getting into good positions and had a shot on target. In the 84th minute, Etienne was tackled in the Crew’s offensive penalty area, but no whistle and a short VAR review didn’t give a penalty kick.

James Igbekeme (6.5) – Igbekeme created good opportunities as one of the midfield three, leading the team with two key passes. Unfortunately, he had one of the best goal-scoring chances for the Black & Gold in the second half but decided for a one-touch attempt that sent a shot sailing above the crossbar.

Aidan Morris (7.0) – Charlotte played a counter-attacking style, sitting back and waiting for something to happen. Part of the reason they didn’t have a lot of chances was the play of Morris in the midfield. The energy and press of Morris frustrated the Charlotte midfield and forced errors as he led the team with six tackles and added a clearance and blocked shot, plus a key pass on offense. Morris’ passing was superb, connecting on 90.9 percent of his 55 passes.

Darlington Nagbe (6.5) – Charlotte stacked the penalty area and Nagbe elected to move the ball around instead of shooting to try to find space through open teammates. Nagbe had moments on the evening where he dribbled out of pressure and held possession for the Crew.

Miguel Berry (5.5) – Berry had a tough evening but was part of the goal with his pressure on Charlotte goalkeeper Kristijan Kahlina. Outside of that play though, Berry didn’t do a good job of waiting for plays to come to him. The forward put in the effort to try and create but appeared increasingly frustrated, having one shot and none on goal and was substituted in the 70th minute.

Erik Hurtado (7.0) – Hurtado scored the lone home goal of the evening, making the best of a Charlotte mistake, but also had other chances to add to his growing goal total. In the second half, Hurtado was kicked to the ground on a breakaway chance in the 58th minute, but there was no whistle and nothing from VAR. He also a frustration yellow after he tackled the same player who got away with a foul less than a minute before.

Substitutes

Kevin Molino (5.5) – Molino came into the match for the first time since tearing his ACL in August of 2021. His 20 minutes were rusty, which is expected, but he still had a shot on goal, albeit an easy save for Kahlina. It’ll take time for the winger to get back to 100% but it was great seeing Molino back on the field in black and gold.

Luis Diaz (5.5) – Diaz came into the match with less than 10 minutes remaining. The winger had a couple of breaks down the right sideline, but the final pass wasn’t there with Charlotte playing for the draw.

Jacen Russell-Rowe (5.5) – Russell-Rowe was the first Crew 2 player to get regular season minutes with the senior team and was in a good position to try to score late in the match but wasn’t located by his teammate. He did lay off a late pass too, thinking he was possibly offside in the moment.

Mo Farsi (N/A) – The second Crew 2 player was midfielder Farsi, who didn’t come into the match until the 90th minute. Farsi showed some flash as a fullback but didn’t have enough time to make a real impact.

Head Coach

Caleb Porter (6.0) – A draw against a struggling expansion team is tough, and in a year where there’s increasing frustration with the Black & Gold’s performances, a lot is put on the coach. On Saturday, Porter had nine players questionable with injuries, including five players who play regularly in the starting lineup. Porter leveraged depth and used four different formations in the second half to find a match-winning goal. If this same performance came in a match with Lucas Zelarayán, Pedro Santos, Artur and Jonathan Mensah on the field, there’d be a lot to point back at Porter.