Coming after a string of encouraging road performances, the Columbus Crew expected three points to celebrate the one-year anniversary of Lower.com Field on Saturday against a depleted Philadelphia Union side. Unfortunately, a 0-0 draw felt like a loss after the Crew let the Union off the hook.
The Black & Gold once again created enough chances to win a game at home but couldn’t find the back of the net. It’s now been three games since Columbus has won a match in front of the team’s home fans.
Let’s look at how the Crew players performed in this tie.
Eloy Room (7.0) – It’s a tough day at the office when you get a clean sheet and don’t walk out with a win. Room didn’t see much action, only having to deal with four shots. The only dangerous opportunities for the Union came from dead ball situations and he did his job there.
Pedro Santos (7.5) – The statistics don’t say much for the Portuguese fullback who had two shots, no tackles, an interception and clearance in 90 minutes, but the pace that he brings to the attacking play of the Black & Gold is hard to measure. He continues to get Columbus in dangerous positions from the wing back position, which will be even more important going forward.
Jonathan Mensah (8.0)/Miloš Degenek (8.0)/Josh Williams (8.0)
The center backs get addressed together because they played similarly well. Having all three on the field once again brought an important element not just on the defensive end, but also in the attack. The ability of Mensah and Williams to push forward against a low block like Philadelphia employed made the attack quicker and less plodding. Some of the passes from these two were truly superb, and it’s hard to find a critique for any of them. Even Degenek, who has been criticized for some poor moments in previous games, was reliable defensively and pushed forward into the attack throughout the game.
Steven Moreira (7.5) – It was another really solid game for Moreira. His ability to track back and shut down attacks on his side of the field allows Crew attackers more freedom in their passes and play. There can still be more decisiveness in the final third when Moreira does push up, but overall a solid performance.
Darlington Nagbe (8.0) – Nagbe was the man of the match for the Crew on Sunday night. It’s really entertaining watching the Ohio native dribble out of a phone booth and put forward an enticing shot or set up a teammate. He’s taken a much more active role in the Black & Gold’s attack of late and that’s why Columbus has looked so much more dangerous in the past couple of games.
Aiden Morris (7.5) – Morris had another strong game for the Crew and was all over the field throughout the game. The tenacity that the central midfielder plays is making it almost impossible for him to come off the field. The only critique for him on Sunday was his ability to find the best option in the final third, but his effort earned him his long-range attempt that failed to find its way on frame.
Sean Zawadzki (7.5) – The team leader in tackles with five of them, Zawadzki has really shined in his opportunity as the team’s No. 6. He does a great job of picking his moments and then going into challenges determined but not reckless. His link-up play between the back and front lines could be a little cleaner, but Zawadzki looks like he has a bright (and hopefully bright yellow) future ahead of him.
Lucas Zelarayán (5.0) – Zelarayán was a tough player to evaluate after his performance on Sunday. He had a goal that was questionably called offside. He had some wonderful moments of brilliance that almost led to goals and had four fouls called against him (which could have easily been twice that). But Zelarayán looked lost for inspiration at times, went down easily expecting fouls and failed to find the better option on multiple occasions.
Jacen Russell-Rowe (6.0) – A good but not great performance from the Canadian. Each of the Crew’s forwards has been critiqued over the course of this season for failing to register a shot when they’re on the field and Russell-Rowe followed that trend. He did, however, contribute nicely to the Black & Gold’s build-up play and made a great long-range cross to Zelarayán that ended up being duffed on a poor touch. As a striker though, Russell-Rowe has one job, to score goals, and so it seems fair to criticize zero shots, particularly in a 0-0 draw.
Erik Hurtado (6.0) – The good was that Hurtado had three shots, two ariels won and was a useful change of pace for Columbus. The bad was he didn’t score and failed to be a menace on some of the Crew’s set piece opportunities. He was in an offside position which led to Zelarayán’s goal being called offside, which changed the game in the second half.
James Igbekembe (5.0) – It was an adequate but uninspiring 30 minutes for Igbekembe. While resting Morris some made sense, it would have been nice to see Igbekembe be more of an attacking threat coming off the bench.
Derrick Etienne Jr. (6.0) – Etienne came on in the final 10 minutes as an offensively minded substitute. While he tried to push forward to break down the low block of Philadelphia, he and the rest of the Black & Gold were unable to find the final finish to break the deadlock.
Kevin Molino (6.0) – Molino continued his recovery from nearly a year out with 10 more minutes. While he is continuing to work his way back from the injury, and Columbus hasn’t played with true wingers during his time on the field and it will be interesting to see if he’ll be able to make his way back to more playing time with the Crew after all of his injuries.
Caleb Porter (6.0) –Porter has done an admirable job leading the Black & Gold through a liminal period between the announced signing of striker Cucho Hernandez and his introduction into the starting lineup. His willingness to switch up formations and players is refreshing after he received so many complaints for his intransigence last year. While winning fewer than 50 percent of his games at the Lower.com Come should not be the standard for Columbus, the Crew now has results in the last five games. Turning these draws into wins will be paramount moving forward this season.