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Games Grades: Crew at D.C. United

See how the individual Black & Gold performances were graded in a draw in the nation’s capital.

MLS: Columbus Crew SC at D.C. United Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

It’s understandable if Columbus Crew fans have mixed reactions to the Black & Gold’s 2-2 draw on Wednesday night against D.C. United. On one hand, Columbus lost a one-goal lead twice to a bottom-of-the-conference team and squandered two brilliant goals with poor defending. On the other hand, the Crew is still unbeaten in the team’s last seven games and got an important road point in a midweek game with Hell is Real rivals FC Cincinnati on the way.

But let’s look back before we look forward to Sunday. Here is how the Black & Gold players performed in the draw at D.C.

Starters

Eloy Room (6.0) – Room and the rest of the Columbus team benefited from several United misses, including a penalty kick after a bad challenge by Room in the 18-yard box. Room made some nice saves that helped cover for some of the issues with the defensive backline but was unable to stop all of D.C.’s 16 shots on the night.

Pedro Santos (7.5) – Santos was back in his more standard role as a left back and played admirably both on defense and in supporting the Crew’s attack. Most of the game was run along his left side where he combined with the winger in front of him throughout the night. While he missed a goal line save on the second United goal, Santos was also the Black & Gold’s most consistent playmaker with 25 more touches than the second highest on the team.

Jalil Anibaba (5.5) – Replacing Jonathan Mensah, who was out on yellow-card accumulation, was never going to be an easy task and Anibaba struggled throughout the night. Multiple times the ball got in behind him and he and the rest of the Columbus backline struggled on set pieces consistently. While Crew fans may disagree with the VAR decision on United’s second goal in stoppage time, Alibaba failed to make a better play on the corner that could have cleared the ball out of danger.

Josh Williams (6.5) – Williams ended up covering a lot of space defensively along the Crew’s backline to allow the fullbacks to push into the Black & Gold’s attack and he ended up being an effective safety net for Columbus at center back. His three blocked shots led the team, but he too struggled on set pieces, and on D.C.’s first goal he allowed Nigel Robertha too much space on his cross into the penalty box.

Steven Moreira (6.5) – The Crew spent most of the game playing down the left side of the field, so Moreira didn’t get a ton of offensive opportunities out of his right back role. He did contribute with the Crew’s only shot on goal other than the ones that went in and was serviceable defensively with three tackles and a clearance. However, as can be said of the entire Black & Gold backline, Moreira never looked comfortable on set pieces and ended up with an unlucky deflection right to Ola Kamara for United’s second goal.

Darlington Nagbe (7.0) – Nagbe played well for much of the match until he was substituted in the 81st minute due to cramps. His substitution was immediately felt as Columbus struggled to keep possession and United continually took the ball after failed offensive attacks. The Crew uses Nagbe as a safety valve, as his ball handling ability and passing vision allow him to break out of multiple defenders to find the right option to start the attack. This is ultimately what set the conditions for United to tie the game in stoppage time.

James Igbekembe (6.5) – Igbekembe played just 45 minutes for the Black & Gold before being substituted off and failed to make a large impact in the role. In the first half, Columbus struggled to maintain possession in the build-up and part of that was due to Igbekembe’s poor connections. He only had a pass accuracy of 80 percent on 25 attempts and ultimately wasn’t involved enough in bridging the defensive backline and the Crew’s attack.

Aidan Morris (7.5) – Morris continues to be the heart of the Black & Gold and his willingness to insert himself into challenges and run the length of the field was on full display Wednesday night. It’s obvious to anyone watching that while his technical ability continues to improve, his tenacity and drive are fully developed and make everyone around him better.

Derrick Etienne Jr. (7.5) – Columbus played much of the game on the left side largely due to the strong interplay between Etienne and Santos. They communicated well throughout the game, finding the correct overlapping runs and making the right passes to challenge United without either of the Crew’s main playmakers in the middle on the field.

Luis Diaz (6.5) – While Diaz was still able to use his speed in moments to work the Black & Gold attack up the right side, his impact was severely muted from his performance as a super sub in Chicago. He ended up coming off in the 74th minute and had the fewest touches of any Columbus starter.

Erik Hurtado (5.5) – Playing only 45 minutes, Hurtado’s ineffective play (zero shots, 10 touches) stands out even more with the play of his replacement — although he did have a goal called back for offside that might have changed his night. Too often the Crew attempted to pass him the ball in transition, and Hurtado was unable to take more than a touch before being dispossessed.

Substitutes

Lucas Zelarayán (8.0) – Zelarayán looked extremely comfortable on Wednesday after coming in at halftime and his two assists speak to the impact he made. While it would still be nice to see the Armenian international return to his scoring ways, his ability to facilitate has been outstanding so far and must continue.

Cucho Hernandez (8.5) – Elite. That’s the best way to describe both of Hernandez’s goals on Wednesday night. The Colombian has shown exactly why the Black & Gold were willing to pay more than $10 million for his services and he is on a path to make every penny worth it. Hernandez’s first goal came out of almost nowhere and showed his elite ability to put the ball exactly where it has to be to beat the keeper. The second showed his movement in the penalty box and ability to be a target for Columbus from the wing.

Yaw Yeboah (6.0) – Yeboah came on for Diaz in the 71st minute and ended up playing a similarly small role in the team’s progression. He ended the game only making three passes on eight touches and was unable to bring any width to the team down the right side.

Sean Zawadzki (6.0) – Zawadzki came on for the Crew in the 81st minute for the cramping Nagbe and there was certainly a drop-off in quality. The rookie’s consistent has dropped a bit, as on Wednesday, he struggled to get on the ball much as the Black & Gold tried to hold on to the one-goal lead.

Head coach

Caleb Porter (7.0) – It’s easy to look smart as a coach when you have players like Hernandez and Zelarayán to bring off the bench at halftime. However, Porter has to be commended for the way he has dealt with injuries and suspensions by rotating his lineups. He likely would have preferred to leave Nagbe on the field for the full 90 minutes, but cramps forced his hand, and it certainly made a difference in the Black & Gold’s ability to hold on to their narrow advantage. Porter has been more consistent on the road this season, and although fans will be disappointed that they were unable to get the full three points in this game, he will be content with the point, and return home ready for the Hell is Real Derby.