Games Grades: Columbus Crew vs. F.C. Cincinnati


When the Columbus crew departs for Cincinnati, only one thing is to be expected: chaos. That’s exactly what happened this past weekend when the Crew essentially stole a tie on the final kick of the game to draw 2-2 with FC Cincinnati.

While the ending was exhilarating for the crew (and demoralizing for FCC), fans of the Black & Gold wonder how much a kick can change their view of how Columbus played. After all, there were more than 95 minutes in which there were definitely fights.

We look back at the crew’s performances at TQL Stadium

Appetizers

Eloy Room (6.0) Room didn’t play Brandon Vasquez’s first set very well and was hit at the near post in an admittedly difficult 1-on-1. The goalkeeper also spilled a shot in the 45th minuteth Minute brought down by an offside Alvas Powell. Despite making a couple of good saves, Room’s ability to control the ball and down the line didn’t live up to his usual high standards.

Will Sands (6.5) – In his first start for Black & Gold, Sands played well to relieve the injured Pedro Santos. While he continues to demonstrate his individual prowess, against Cincinnati he lacked his ability to get crosses into the box – where Santos excels. Sands could get more chances if Santos is out.

Jonathan Mensah (6.5) – With Columbus in search of a goal for most of the game, Mensah was constantly being asked to push high up. This put the centre-back out of position, particularly on Vasquez’s escape goal where he failed to backtrack in time. Because of that offensive emphasis, Menah’s defensive contribution was less, but he contributed a rocket from a shot that nearly hit the back of the net.

Milos Degenek (6.0) – Degenek also spent much of the game in the Crew’s attacking half, helping to find a goal, evidenced by the ball he carried into the penalty area which resulted in the late equaliser. The Australia international put on a mixed performance on Saturday, showing his defensive prowess but also a lack of pace in key situations.

Steven Moreira (8.5) – Already before his goal in stoppage time, Moreira had a solid game at right-back and helped create that side of the field. His night came with a second assist on the first goal and his walk-off goal to tie the game. However, Moreira was slow to get to Cincinnati’s second goal, eventually deflecting the ball into the back net.

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

Aidan Morris (5.5) – It was a tough night for Morris on his return to the starting XI. He was involved in both of Cincinnati’s goals and also played several bad passes that directly led to scoring chances for the opponent. However, Morris was part of the defense-by-committee style played by Black & Gold once they scored. Morris has gained more ground in central midfield than Artur, but he pushes less in attack and makes too many mistakes.

Kevin Molino (5.0) – Molino’s first start this year was lackluster compared to his impact off the bench in the last game against Atlanta United. Instead of the wide play of other wingers, Molino floated towards the middle of the field, a tactical change from Columbus’ setup. This didn’t work, however, as Molino seemed at odds with his teammates, only hitting 66 percent of his passes.

Lucas Zelarayán (6.0) – Always a mystery, Zelarayán continues to show moments of brilliance and moments of frustratingly bad giveaways that can drag the crew out of attacking moments and sap momentum off offense. Once a magician at set pieces, Zelarayán has struggled when standing over dead balls lately and has struggled against that at TQL Stadium. The Black & Gold could have used more influence from their No. 10 on Saturday night.

Luis Diaz (6.5) – It was clear Columbus wanted to use Diaz’s pace to attack Cincinnati down the left flank. Diaz was able to incorporate several excellent attacks into the offensive third. However, he never managed to create enough distance and never had the goals in the penalty area to produce a dangerous cross. His substitution in the 78th minuteth Minute was a product of how much the crew used his pace to create opportunities.

Cucho Hernandez (7.0) – Hernandez had brilliant moments including his assist on the first goal. His work rate, evident in his constant pressing of opposing defenses, is a little-discussed part of his strength and significantly helped Black & Gold gain possession in the second half. Too often, however, Hernandez is surrounded by three players, making it difficult for him to make an impact. However, the grade for his Celebration after the game deserves a 10 rating.

substitute

Derrick Etienne (7.0) – Etienne dominated the game Twelve minutes after coming on as a substitute, he deftly headed a cross into the net. The winger brought a spark off the bench and reminded Columbus fans why he was the regular all season. Was he offside at the goal? The world may never know.

Yaw Yeboah (6.5) – Yeboah came into play in the 78th minute but had no effect. The Ghana winger came on as a substitute when the team were looking for a goal, but his contributions were minimal as he hit just 12 touches on Saturday night.

Erik Hurtado (N/A) – Hurtado’s substitution was clearly about putting all the chips on the table and substituting a more defensive player for more attack. Hurtado didn’t make much of an impression in three minutes with just four touches.

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

head coach

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