No, the zombie you saw Saturday night wasn’t an early Halloween decoration. The Columbus Crew welcomed the month of October by reigniting the team’s MLS Cup playoff hopes with two sensational last-second goals in the final minutes of the game.
The crew were in the process of writing the team’s obituary of the season, trailing 1-0 to the Red Bulls and being thwarted offensively all night. However, Black & Gold’s substitutes changed the character of the game, resulting in Columbus winning the game 2–1 and reviving postseason hopes.
Here’s how the Crew players fared.
Eloy Room (7.5) – Fans were furious with the Black & Gold goalkeeper for conceding. However, Room was protected from seeing the ball and the goal was due more to skill and luck than poor play by Room. The keeper should instead be credited for keeping Columbus in the competition with three fantastic saves.
Pedro Santos (7.5) – Santos started the competition at left-back and continued to move up the ranks after the crew made changes and got the ball better up front. Santos excelled both offensively and defensively for Black & Gold and also suffered five team-leading fouls, sacrificing his body to help the team.
Josh Williams (8.0) – Williams was outstanding for Columbus on Saturday, leading the team defensively and sharing organizational duties to keep the team’s form across the back line. Williams had six clearances, an interception, a tackle and a blocked shot and was strong in defense against the Red Bulls’ press.
Milos Degenek (7.5) – Perhaps more interesting than Degenek’s game being great for the crew was the way Degenek was seen at the end of the game cheering up the team after the game. The Australia international appears to be acting as a leader for the crew and backed his speech with eight clearances as team leader.
Steven Moreira (6.5) – The Red Bulls’ goal came from a poor defense by Moreira, who fired the ball straight at the New York midfielder. The right-back needs to do better on this ball and while he was good defensively he didn’t make much of an impact on defence. His biggest contribution of the night was Black & Gold’s second goal of the night, where his pass helped score Columbus’s goal.
Aidan Morris (7.5) – Saturday night was a match made for the young star of the crew. The midfielder’s willingness to engage in tackles and consistently gain possession in midfield helped the Black and Golds push into attack and prevented the Red Bulls’ pressing from dominating. His willingness to move into the attacking third was eventually rewarded with Columbus’ first goal, which equalized.
Darlington Nagbe (5.5) – Nagbe’s control of the press was seen consistently and he had a team-leading 88 percent passing accuracy on his 50 passes. But the midfielder couldn’t close the New York goal with urgency or pace. Too many of his 50 passes were slow and negative, consistently killing the crew’s attack. Fans have seen what Nagbe can bring as he moves the game forward with his outstanding passing ability on Black & Gold’s first goal, but Columbus needs Nagbe to do that for every 90 minutes, not just the last five.
Arthur (6.5) – Artur had a fine 53 minute before being substituted. The Brazilian midfielder had four tackles and worked his way into Crew’s attack but failed to create many chances.
Kevin Molino (6.5) – Molino contributed a shot for Black & Gold but was disowned too many times by the New York defense. He continued to work centrally all night creating opportunities down the middle but ultimately failed to deliver results for Columbus.
Luis Diaz (5.5) – Diaz managed just 23 touches in his 78 minutes of play, which is disappointing considering his pace set the Red Bulls’ wing on fire every time the ball was picked up in space. He consistently worked the wing but struggled in the penalty area without a real goal.
Eric Hurtado (4.5) – Hurtado failed to register a shot in his 69 minutes and lacked both the presence and pace to intervene in the crew’s attack. The striker relies on good service and without Black & Gold’s best playmaker, Hurtado never got the service he needed to challenge the Red Bulls goalkeeper.
Lucas Zelarayán (7.5) – One could argue that the 53rdapprox Substitution came too late for Columbus as Zelarayán came on immediately after New York’s goal. However, with the time he has been on the field, Zelarayán has been the dynamic presenter he is known for, picking up the ball and pushing it into the offensive third. His quality shone and was eventually rewarded with his nifty trick that helped set up the first goal.
Derrick Etienne Jr (10) – A substitute should do that. From the moment Etienne stepped onto the field, he helped change the entire feel of the game. The crew struggled all night to create chances and in about 25 minutes Etienne had five shots that led the team. Nobody else on the team had more than one. Of course, the best thing he did was to score the two goals.
Jacen Russell Rowe (8.0) – The MLS NEXT Pro Golden Boot winner also made an instant impression from the bench. Russell-Rowe struggled to touch the ball, circling back and running forward to make sure he integrated into the Black & Gold attack. He made sharp, line-breaking runs that challenged a defense that had been comfortable sitting and defending all night. His movements, speed, and combat all contributed to Columbus’ two goals.
Mohammed Farsi (8.0)– The other standout Capybara was replaced in the 78th minute for Black and Gold and while not quite as impactful as his Crew 2 teammate, he was just as important in changing the way the Crew attacked. His substitution allowed Pedro Santos to play as a winger and gave the team a different look and a more dynamic passing threat. Farsi was strong on offense too, providing an assist on Etienne’s goal, ready to push forward in attack and forcing the Red Bulls to react instead of being in the front.
Caleb Porter (7.5) – If the manager is to be blamed when a team’s lack of mental discipline squanders points in the final moments of a game, then it’s only fair that he should do the same when the team finds a way to end an important game late to win get the credit. Yes, the offense was excruciatingly sluggish for more than 80 minutes of the game and the crew was waiting to change their best player until they were already stuck in a hole, but at the end of the day Porter and his team found a way to win.