After the Columbus Crew saw the team’s lead and three points slip away in the final minutes against CF Montreal on Wednesday, the Black & Gold were in need of a rebound performance on Saturday against New York City FC at Lower.com Field. An early NYCFC goal was a punch in the gut. But Columbus didn’t fold after another unlucky bounce went the opponent’s way, they instead responded with one of their best offensive performances of the season to earn a 3-2 win.
A late goal might have been one of the most important for the year. It was also a big three points for the Crew and gave everyone at Lower.com Field something to cheer about.
Here is how the Black & Gold player performed in the win.
Eloy Room (7.5) – Room had no less than three incredible saves on Saturday night, including an impressive kick stop in the 36th minute, a diving stop in the 55th minute and another diving save in the 67th. His ability to make these important saves was especially important Columbus was on the end of unlucky on two defensive deflections that Room had to watch dribble into the back of the net.
Pedro Santos (6.5) – Santos had another quiet night on Saturday. While he continues to lock down the left side defensively, his offensive contributions were few and far between against the Pigeons. While the Crew was able to switch the field through him several times, it was never quite fast enough to open an opportunity for Santos to play an effective cross.
Jonathan Mensah (6.0) – After the third-minute goal, Mensah was once again the scapegoat for the team’s overall lack of defensive coverage, as he was credited with the own goal on the deflection. The center back had to provide cover and ended up deflecting the ball into the back of the net. For the rest of the game though, Mensah performed, leading the team with seven clearances and completing all of his 45 passes. His defensive work helped keep City from getting comfortable in the attack.
Miloš Degenek (5.5) – Degenek, made his first start since early July and had an up and down game. Although MLS officially didn’t charge him with the own goal, his deflection on the 64th minute equalizer from City was why the ball ended up in the back of the net. On the other hand, he made some excellent tackles in critical spots, ending the game with three tackles, three interceptions and a clearance.
Steven Moreira (6.5) – Mensah’s error on the first goal largely happened due to Moreira being out of position, following his marker but leading to a gap in coverage down the right side. Apart from that, Moreira made some significant contributions, including a critical block in the 45th minute on what appeared to be a sure goal from the Cityzens. His interplay helped push the ball into the attack throughout the game.
Artur (7.0) – Artur made his first start for the Black & Gold since late May and played well before his 55th minute substitution. The central midfielder still is looking to find his rhythm on the field as wasn’t quite in sync offensively. He played solid defensively, however, and worked into the offense as well, contributing a shot and a key offensive pass.
Darlington Nagbe (7.0) – Nagbe put in his strongest defensive performance of the season with a team-leading six tackles against New York City. With the offensive firepower Columbus now has, Nagbe hasn’t been asked to make the forward runs as he was early in the season. His ability to keep possession and allow the attack to grow through the wings has yielded positive results for the Crew.
Luis Diaz (8.0) – Is this finally peak Diaz? While he’s still not finding the back of the net, Diaz has transformed himself into a quality facilitator lately. With more attacking options for teams to cover, defenders leave wide swaths of space for Diaz to use his game-breaking speed and his improved decision-making ability to find the right pass into the penalty box. While only officially credited with two assists, he was the main inciting effort on all three of Columbus’ goals.
Lucas Zelarayán (8.0) – Zelarayán has regained his goal scoring ways. Clearly more comfortable with new attacking options around him, Zelarayán has flourished as defenses increasingly have to shift from double or triple teaming him every time he touches the ball, to spreading out and covering others in the attack. Zelarayán’s willingness to put the ball on frame was rewarded with two goals on Saturday.
Derrick Etienne Jr. (6.5) – Etienne was not as active on Saturday, similar to Santos. While he wasn’t as involved offensively, Etienne put in a solid effort against NYCFC, contributing three tackles defensively and putting up a shot on goal.
Cucho Hernandez (8.0) – Hernandez had another signature game on Saturday, not only contributing a goal but also helping to foster the Crew’s attack to continually pressure New York City FC into making mistakes. Even beyond Hernandez’s obvious goal scoring skill, he opens the game for his teammates. He drew in defenders, created space for his teammates and provided them with the pass for them to create an opportunity.
Aiden Morris (6.0) – Morris came on for Artur in the 55th minute in his first substitute appearance since April 4 and struggled early in his relief role. The first slip up happened when Morris slipped defensively, providing Gabriel Pereira the opening he needed to score NYCFC’s second goal. Three minutes later, a poor pass and giveaway by Morris forced an outstanding save. He settled into the game as time went on but if not for others around him, Morriss mistakes could have cost the team all three points.
James Igbekeme (N/A) – Igbekeme came on in the 88th minute to bring in additional defensive coverage for a spent Diaz. While he didn’t contribute enough for a grade, it is impressive how much of a utilityman Igbekeme while on loan.
Erik Hurtado (N/A) – Hurtado came on in the 90th minute for Hernandez and only recorded a single touch in stoppage time.
Caleb Porter (7.5) – While winning covers up a lot of flaws, the Crew continues to be exposed defensively and has not found either the correct player combination or tactical array to prevent teams from exploiting the gaps. If not for Room’s remarkable saves and the team offensively going into high gear, the Black & Gold would have dropped points in key matches. Saturday night’s win might be the biggest win of the season and beating the defending MLS champions and the second-place team in the Eastern Conference is certainly monumental for the team’s trajectory. However, Columbus needs to keep getting results to stay above the densely packed crowd of teams searching to find a playoff spot.