The Columbus Crew faced Charlotte FC on Saturday night at Bank of America Stadium riding a four-game unbeaten streak and going against a team that was near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings and desperately needing a victory. Unfortunately for the Crew, a single goal by Karol Swiderski was all Charlotte needed for a 1-0 victory.
This was a disjointed game from the Black & Gold, who had a player leave with an injury and could never find the same attacking rhythm and finishing ability of recent matches. What appeared to be a late equalizer was ruled off the board due to a VAR offside decision.
This is not a loss Columbus will want to look back on too often, but let’s take a look at how the players performed.
Patrick Schulte (7.5) – In a game where the Crew struggled to convert opportunities, Schulte needed to be perfect, and almost was. With three impressive saves while also distributing the ball well, Schulte continues to show his capacity to be the number one option on an MLS roster. Unfortunately, the one goal allowed proved to be the difference in this tightly contested contest.
Steven Moreira (5.0) – Moreira had a quiet game on the score sheet contributing only a single tackle and two shots that had a combined expected goals of a mere 0.09. While he possessed the ball a significant amount, recording over 100 touches, Moreira didn’t help his team build effectively through his possession. The right center back’s best moments were his long pitch crossing passes that switched the point of attack. However, Charlotte did a good job reacting to those switches, allowing the Black & Gold to play the ball out wide while preventing effective crosses into the penalty box.
Milos Degenek (5.5) – Degenek played well scrambling to defend Charlotte’s counter attacks, oftentimes as the only defender back when Columbus pressed forward searching for the equalizer. However, he had to recover well because he was consistently caught in a poor position. The Crew was lucky to only allow a single goal from a Charlotte attack that created several dangerous opportunities while exposing Degenek’s lonely position on the backline. The central defender did good work but needed to improve his positioning in this match.
Gustavo Vallecilla (5.0) – Vallecilla has had his ups and downs on Saturday night. While the left center back did record a tackle, two interceptions, two clearances and blocked shots, Vallecilla failed to cover Karol Swiderski on his 37th minute goal and completely missed the attacker in the 74th minute, as Swiderrski was left wide open and should have had another goal. There have been some good moments for Vallecilla since stepping into the starting 11, but the last two performances have seen a drop off in play.
Mohamed Farsi (6.0) – Farsi’s speed and confidence on the ball make him exciting to watch. Farsi consistently worked the ball into the attacking third in this match, making excellent overlapping runs down the right side. However, the Crew predominately attempted to attack down the right (22 of Columbus’ attacks came down the right side vs. 43 percent on the left) and was unable to leverage the pace that Farsi brings to the game effectively.
Will Sands (N/A) – It was tough to watch Sands, who has played so well this season for the Black & Gold, get injured and eventually subbed off in the 10th minute. The severity of the injury hasn’t been announced but Sands appeared to hurt his knee, was stretchered off the field and was on crutches after the match.
Sean Zawadzki (6.0) – Zawadzki was a surprise starter in central midfield and put in a passable display in his 63 minutes of play. Zawadzki contributed two tackles, three interceptions and two clearances, but the Crew struggled to control the midfield as they have consistently done this season and he failed to track back on Charlotte’s goal.
Aidan Morris (7.0) – Leaving the debate on the goal that was ruled offside late in the match for elsewhere, Morris played well enough for the Black & Gold in a different role than he often has played this year, particularly after traveling to play for the United States Men’s National Team this week. His play was frenetic on both sides of the pitch, creating goal scoring opportunities on offense and having four tackles and one interception on defense.
Lucas Zelarayán (7.0) – Zelarayán created multiple goal scoring opportunities and had wo shots in this match but struggled to remain in lockstep with his teammates, particularly when attempting to counter Charlotte’s low block. He again tried to do too much at times, but was the most effective Crew player in creating channces.
Alexandru Matan (7.5) – While Matan may have come down somewhat from the high level he was playing at to start the season, Columbus has a productive player. Matan plays fast and is incisive in the attack, while also getting back on defense. This was the case against on Saturday.
Christian Ramirez (6.0) – Ramirez again had excellent positioning that created high probability goal scoring situations in which he was unable to capitalize. Ramirez should have scored in the 20th minute, as his header placed almost anywhere else surely finds the back of the net. He also should have scored in the 34th minute, as he completely mishit a cross into the penalty box. Those missed opportunities proved costly for the Crew and could have changed the dynamic and result of the match.
Yaw Yeboah (6.0) – Yeboah showed both why he wasn’t the starter, and why he was the go-to choice to replace Sands after his injury. The converted winger had difficulty maintaining possession in the attacking but managed some creative runs and probing crosses. Similarly, his team-leading three shots were balanced with none of them on target. The 26 year old will need to be more clinical if the Black & Gold need him for an extended time in Sands’ absence.
Jacen Russell-Rowe (5.5) – After being subbed on in the 63rd minute, Russell-Rowe only had nine touches and no shots despite the team pressing to find a goal and dominating possession. The forward certainly would benefit from more playing time, but has to earn the right to be on the field when he gets his opportunities.
Darlington Nagbe (7.0) – Comming on in the second half, Nagbe brought immediate stability to a midfield that struggled to maintain possession consistently. He completed 23 of 25 passes and played high in the attacking third. While he wasn’t able to force the equalizer, Nagbe clearly showed his value to this team through his early absence Saturday night.
Jimmy Medranda (N/A) – Medranda came on in the 90th minute as a final roll of the dice, but only had five touches and didn’t do enough to earn a grade.
Max Arfsten (N/A) – Similarly, Arfsten only had three touches in his brief appearance.
Wilfred Nancy (6.0) – This must have been a frustrating game to watch for Nancy. His attack put the Crew in the right position time and time again, but the players were unable to find a way to put the ball in the back of the net (and have it count). Nancy has done a good job with this group early in the season, and perhaps hasn’t received enough credit for doing it without striker Cucho Hernandez, but this game was there for the taking against a struggling team.