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Games Grades: Crew vs. F.C. Cincinnati

How the Black & Gold players performed in the draw in Cincinnati.

MLS: Columbus Crew SC at FC Cincinnati Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

When the Columbus Crew goes down to Cincinnati, there is only one thing to expect: chaos. That is what happened this past weekend when the Crew stole a tie on essentially the last kick of the game, drawing with FC Cincinnati 2-2.

While the ending was exhilarating for the Crew (and demoralizing for FCC), fans of the Black & Gold are left wondering how much one kick can and should impact their view of how Columbus played. After all, there were 95-plus minutes where there were certainly struggles.

We look back at the performances from the Crew at TQL Stadium

Starters

Eloy Room (6.0) Room didn’t play Brandon Vasquez’s opener very well, getting beaten to the near post in an admittedly difficult 1 v. 1 situation. The goalkeeper also spilled a shot in the 45th minute that was pounced on by an offside Alvas Powell. While he made a couple of good saves, Room’s ability to control the ball and the backline weren’t up to his usual high standards.

Will Sands (6.5) – In his first start for the Black & Gold, Sands played well in relief of the injured Pedro Santos. While he continues to show off his individual skill, his ability to generate crosses into the penalty box — where Santos excels — was lacking against Cincinnati. Sands could get more opportunities with Santos out.

Jonathan Mensah (6.5) – With Columbus searching for a goal for most of the game, Mensah was continually asked to push high up the pitch. This took the center back out of position, particularly on Vasquez’s breakaway goal, where he couldn’t track back in time. Because of this offensive emphasis, Menah’s defensive contributions were fewer, but he contributed a rocket of a shot that almost found the back of the net.

Milos Degenek (6.0) – Degenek also spent much of the game in the Crew’s offensive half, helping search for a goal, which was evident by the ball he put into the box that led to late equalizer. The Australian international had a mixed performance on Saturday, showing his defensive skills but also a lack of pace in key situations.

Steven Moreira (8.5) – Even before his stoppage time goal, Moreira had a solid game at right back, helping to create down that side of the field. His night came with a secondary assist on the first goal and his walk-off goal to tie the game. However, Moreira was slow to come out on Cincinnati’s second goal and did end up deflecting the ball into the back of the net.

Darlington Nagbe (7.5) – While it might be overlooked due to the late-game heroics, Nagbe played an important role in securing a point for the Crew, clearing a shot off the goal line just before stoppage time. Cincinnati did its best to limit Nagbe’s ability to control the midfield, but the American central midfielder continued to fight for possession and worked both offensively and defensively. He finished the game tied for the second most touches on the team and led with five interceptions, while also contributing three clearances and a blocked shot.

Aidan Morris (5.5) – It was a rough night for Morris in his return to the starting 11. He was involved in both Cincinnati goals and also made several poor passes that directly led to chances at goal for the opposition. However, Morris was a part of the defense-by-committee style the Black & Gold played once they went down a goal. Morris covered more ground than Artur would have in central midfield, but he presses less into the attack and had too many poor decisions.

Kevin Molino (5.0) – Molino’s first start of the year was lackluster compared to his impact off the bench last game against Atlanta United. Instead of the wide play of other wingers, Molino floated toward the center of the pitch, a tactical change to Columbus’ build-up. This did not work, however, as Molino looked out of sorts with his teammates, connecting on just 66 percent of his passes.

Lucas Zelarayán (6.0) – Ever an enigma, Zelarayán continues to display moments of brilliance and moments of frustratingly poor giveaways that can pull the Crew out of attacking moments and take momentum away from the offense. Once a wizard on set pieces, Zelarayán has struggled when standing over dead balls lately and did against at TQL Stadium. The Black & Gold could have used more of an impact from their No. 10 on Saturday night.

Luis Diaz (6.5) – It was clear that Columbus wanted to use Diaz’s pace to attack Cincinnati down the left flank. Diaz was able to work several excellent attacks into the offensive third. However, he was never able to create enough separation and never had the targets in the penalty box to produce a dangerous cross. His substitution in the 78th minute was a product of how much the Crew was using his pace to create opportunities.

Cucho Hernandez (7.0) – Hernandez had moments of brilliance, including his assist on the first goal. His work rate, exhibited by his constant pressing of the opposing defenses, is an under-discussed part of how good he is and significantly helped the Black & Gold get possession in the second half. Too often, however, Hernandez is surrounded by three players, making it hard for him to make an impact. However, the grade for his post-game celebration deserves a 10 rating.

Substitutes

Derrick Etienne (7.0) – Etienne put his mark on the game 12 minutes after coming off the bench he nimbly redirected a cross with his head into the back of the net. The winger brought a spark off of the bench and reminded Columbus fans why he has been the go-to starter all season. Was he offside on the goal? The world may never know.

Yaw Yeboah (6.5) – Yeboah came into the game in the 78th minute but failed to make an impact. The Ghanaian winger was brought on when the team is searching for a goal but his contributions were minimal as he only ended up with 12 touches on Saturday night.

Erik Hurtado (N/A) – Hurtado’s substitution was clearly a case of pushing all the chips on the table, substituting out a more defensive player to get more attack. Hurtado didn’t make much of an impact in three minutes with only four touches of the ball.

Mohamed Farsi (N/A) – Farsi came onto the game late in relief of Sands and was a useful safety defender for the team. However, he wasn’t on the field long enough to assess his play.

Head coach

Caleb Porter (6.0) – This game saw the good the bad and the ugly for the Crew’s head coach. He’s clearly a fiery coach who inspires both fans and the players to dig deep and continue to compete. But while the two comebacks were nice, this wasn’t the Black & Gold’s best performance. Columbus spent most of the game on the back foot and easily could have walked away without a point. The Crew did however and both credit and blame go to Porter.