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Games Grades: Crew vs. New England Revolution

See how the Black & Gold performed in a disappointing but spirited draw with the Revolution.

Coming off the high of beating the team’s rivals from down the road, the Columbus Crew can be forgiven for having an off game. The New England Revolution came into Saturdya’s match clearly playing for a draw and were ultimately successful, early a 0-0 result at Lower.com Field.

The visitors spent most of the game sitting 11 players in their own half. The Crew was unable to break down the tight defensive shape and had to settle for the team’s ninth straight result but only a single point.

Here’s how the Black & Gold players performed in the game.

Starters

Eloy Room (7.5) – New England only managed five shots for the entire game and only forced two saves from the Columbus goalkeeper, but a shutout is always a good achievement and showed that the Crew’s defense, and Room’s organization on set pieces, is clearly stronger with a stable backline.

Pedro Santos (7.5) – Santos had an excellent game on Saturday and was repeatedly a key influencer bringing the Black & Gold’s attack forward. The left back looked comfortable and was able to float forward into the attack and then recover on defense to make stops. While his offensive capabilities receive a lot of praise, he led the team in interceptions this match with four.

Jonathan Mensah (7.0) – Mensah and the backline had a solid game for Columbus and his defensive ability allowed the fullbacks to join into the attack without worrying about being exposed on the counter. While the Revolution struggled to push into the attacking third, the efforts of Mensah and the Crew’s defense ensured that even when the visitors did, the Crew was never seriously threatened.

Josh Williams (7.5) – Williams had another excellent game following his impressive performance against FC Cincinnati. What was perhaps underappreciated was his willingness to be a target on corners. Williams finished the game with three shots, one on target, although ultimately none of his attempts seriously troubled the New England goalkeeper.

Marlon Hairston (7.0) – With Steven Moreira out due to yellow card accumulation, Hariston played well as his replacement until his 75th minute substitution. While less involved in the attack than his left back counterpart, Hairston led the team in tackles with three and his 94.7 oercebt passing completion on 38 passes helped keep possession for Columbus and build the attack into the New England half.

Darlington Nagbe (7.0) – Nagbe was one of the key facilitators, especially in the first half with 66 passes and a team -leading 95.5 percent completion percentage. While Nagbe pushed high throughout the first half, he was less involved as the game went on and dropped into a more defensive role later in the match. Although the team finished the game with 17 shots, Nagbe didn’t contribute any of them.

Aidan Morris (7.0) – Morris played well over his 69 minutes and his willingness to cover ground helped keep the ball with the Crew and prevented the Revolution from being able to effectively counter attack. Morris’ ability to cover ground was repeatedly noted on the broadcast and his intensity and passion are always on clear display.

Derrick Etienne Jr. (7.0) – Etienne spent much of the game in the New England penalty box but ultimately couldn’t find the space or opportunity to finish or really test the Revs goalkeeper. Yeah he winger finished the game with only 28 touches, the lowest of any starter, and failed to make a game-breaking impact as he has done at times throughout this season.

Lucas Zelarayán (7.0) – Zelarayán looked frustrated at the end of the game, and he had every reason to be. Despite making five key passes, having three shots and two on target, he was not able to break down a team that insisted on parking the bus for 90 minutes. One thing that is starting to get more attention is Zelarayán’s struggles on corners. Despite being the Black and Gold’s best option for free kicks, the team has yet to score on a Zelarayán corner this season. Perhaps it’s time to let Santos someone else try his hand in an area that hasn’t yielded much for the team this season.

Luis Diaz (7.0) – Diaz has played excellent since the last few games and his strong play continued Saturday. In 75 minutes of action, Diaz had two shots and drew five fouls for the team, often in highly dangerous positions. Despite going against one of the fastest defenders in the league, Diaz was still able to use his speed as an effective option on attacks down the right side and as a target on longballs. If Diaz could find a better finishing touch, Columbus would truly have a dynamic winger terrorizing defenses down the right flank.

Cucho Hernandez (8.0) – Hernandez finally had his first Crew game without a goal, although it certainly wasn’t from a lack of trying. His five shots led the team and were a dynamic shift from previous Black & Gold shutouts, where the striker has failed to contribute even a single attempt. It was clear at times throughout the night, that Hernandez has next-level skills, but is still working on finding that inch-precise timing with the rest of the team that is required to break down a low-block. Continued practice and developing the rest of the team to take advantage of defense’s focus on the Crew’s main target will allow the team to be able to find the breakthrough against compact defenses.

Substitutes

James Igbekeme (6.5) – Igbekeme played well at times but while his substitution for Morris was clearly an attempt to place more offensive firepower on the field, he couldn’t bring a spark to the Crew’s offense that had worn itself out battering against New England’s low block. Finishing the game with only 19 touches, he failed to make a game-changing impact as a substitute.

Mohamed Farsi (7.0) – The former Crew 2 star who earned his first-team contract this week was also rewarded with a role as a substitute on Saturday. While he only played 15 minutes, Farsi was solid defensively as the Revolution attempted to find a lucky winner and was competent one on one each time he was tested. His willingness to make runs into the penalty box was almost rewarded after a great pass went just out of his reach but demonstrates his potential to be an effective backup

Kevin Molino (6.5) – While it’s great to see Molino continue to work his way back from injury, he failed to combine effectively in his 15 minutes of play. While he offers an enticing option both as a starter and off the bench, Molino has yet to show that he has returned to even a fraction of his top-level form. After a series of injuries it will be interesting to see if Molino is ever able to find that elite form.

Head Coach

Caleb Porter (7.0) – Porter is certainly going to be frustrated that the team was unable to secure three points in a game that was there for the taking. However, what is undeniable is that the Crew are on a nine-game unbeaten run and is securing important points in games the team would have dropped last season. Finding a way to break down the low block that teams are inevitably going to throw at the Black & Gold’s high-powered attack must be high on Porter’s priority list. It remains to be seen if Columbus can find that final combination in tight spaces the team will assuredly need moving forward.