Columbus Crew 2 took on FC Cincinnati 2 on Sunday night, a day after the Hell Is Real Derby between the first teams. Cincinnati looked to avenge the nine-goal drumming last time these two teams but, unlike on Saturday, the Black & Gold were victorious thanks to an early Taha Habroune goal to spark a 1-0 win.
Crew 2 announced before the game that Habroune had signed his first professional contract with Columbus. The 17 year old showed no fear as he made his first professional start, getting his first professional goal in the third minute. A smart bit of passing found midfielder Gio De Libera unmarked on the right flank. De Libera played a cross straight into Habroune who then played the ball forward, potentially a pass to Rayo. Rayo was then able to poke the ball back to Habroune, who blasted his shot past Cincinnati goalkeeper Evan Louro from inside the six-yard box.
The Blue and Orange earned three yellow cards early in the first half but settled down as the game went on. The most egregious of the yellow card offenses came in the 14th minute when Stiven Jimenez pulled Crew 2 midfielder Coleman Gannon down from the side. The play could have been worse but Gannon got up immediately. The haphazard tackle, however, brought a booking to the home side. Gannon was able to bait Cincinnati midfielder Salim Adams into an unnecessary tackle, earning another yellow in the 21st minute.
Columbus began ceding possession to the rivals midway through the first half, often by turning over the ball under Cincinnati’s pressure. In the 24th minute, midfielder Thomas Roberts was dispossessed in his defensive third. The incoming cross found Clay Holstad, playing at right back, who headed the ball back into the middle of the 18-yard box. A scramble in the box saw Columbus first to the ball to clear it out.
Only three minutes later, Roberts again was dispossessed in his defensive third. Defender Xavier Zengue had to make a risky sliding tackle to win the ball before an on-rushing attacker was able to get off a. Zengue’s brave defending resulted in him getting kicked in the head in the 33rd minute. FC Cincy 2 midfielder Gerardo Valenzuela turned his body and attempted a bicycle kick, but Zengue cleared the ball out. Valenzuela tried to pull his kick, but not before he made contact with Zengue and was awarded a yellow card for his recklessness.
The Blue and Orange continued their attack on goal in the 38th minute when Valenzuela found Adams at the top of the penalty box. Adams’ powerful strike was over the bar. Cincinnati was unable to find a breakthrough and had to settle for shots from long-range.
Crew 2 showed signs of danger at the end of the first half when a Holstad cross found forward Mateo Bunbery but his attempt was wide of the post.
The second half followed much of the same script as the first with plenty of Cincinnati possession and turnovers from Columbus. None of Cincinnati’s attacks materialized into goals as Zengue continued to have a solid performance.
In the 50th minute, Jacob Erlandson won a tackle to gain possession before he got his pocket picked and he fell over, tripping the attacker in the process. The referee called the foul and confusion ensued. It looked like a denial of a goal scoring opportunity and the center referee confirmed this with her assistant referee. Erlandson was ultimately sent off after the altercation, leaving Crew 2 to play with 10 men the rest of the game.
Down a man and under pressure, head coach Laurent Courtois brought on captain Marco Micaletto and defender Abdi Mohamed. Micaletto’s experience and possession were an instant relief for a battered Black & Gold side.
Forward Noah Fuson brought width to Columbus’ attack, creating a great opportunity in the 65th minute. A long ball was played to Fuson whose defender made a poor attempt to head the ball, giving the attacker space on the left flank. Fuson was not able to get his shot off until defensive reinforcements got into the 18-yard box and deflected the ball out for a corner.
In the 67th minute, Zengue made a knifing run, drawing a defender to him and then laying the ball off to Fuson. The forward found Micaletto on the cut-back pass, but his shot was blocked out for another corner. With the substitutions, Courtois’ side looked dangerous. Fuson and Micaletto almost combined again in the 80th minute for another dangerous chance.
Goalkeeper Brady Scott was called upon to make one big save in the 75th minute to keep the advantage to the away side and help his side see out the road win.
The Crew Academy continues to produce midfielders
Crew Academy products Gio De Libera and Cole Mrowka each came dangerously close to scoring, but neither was able to find the back of the net. While Habroune scored the lone goal. De Libera and Habroune both play as center midfielders while Mrowka plays as an attacking central midfielder.
De Libera, Habroune and Mrowka all are only 17 years old and each have made waves at the MLS NEXT Pro level. De Libera and Mrowka have yet to sign pro contracts with Crew 2 but it would not be a surprise to see them do so soon as each earned the MLS NEXT Pro Rising Star award. Habroune signed a contract with Crew 2 and has scored goals at the Under-17 international level.
The trio of teenagers will look to follow in the footsteps of other Acamedy players Aidan Morris, Isaiah Parente, Wil Trapp and Sean Zawadzki.
Heck is Plausible victory
After much change, Crew 2 has shown the team still means business. The victory over the team’s rivals will have the Black & Gold reserve team feeling confident before traveling to New England Revolution II and Philadelphia Union II, two difficult Eastern Conference teams.
The Black & Gold pushed their record to 3-0-1 this season. Columbus has outscored Cincinnati 17-3 across four all-time meetings. All of Cincinnati’s goals came in one game.