By Hilary // @hils4crew
Columbus Crew vs New York Red Bulls
On Saturday, the Columbus Crew tied the New York Red Bulls in their home opener. While the final score line was a 1-1 tie, to many in the crowd, it felt like a victory. Because at this time last year, there was doubt as to if the Crew would have another home opener in Columbus.
The former Crew owner, Anthony Precourt, had been trying to move the team to Austin. But due to a strong Save the Crew grassroots movement, government officials, other city and state leaders, and a new ownership group, the Crew will remain in Columbus, and in two years, the team will be playing in a brand-new downtown stadium.
As the team warmed up and Jonathan Mensah waved at my section, I teared up. As the new ownership group, the Haslam and Edwards families, were introduced, I teared up. When I heard them announce the Crew’s starting line-up, I teared up. As the team took the field, I teared up. When I looked around the stadium filled with around 17,900 excited fans, I teared up. When the game ended, I teared up, but not because it was a tie. But because my team was still here. For this reason, it was an emotional game, and for this one moment, the results on the field didn’t really matter.
However, now that I can just worry about how my team is playing soccer and not if they are going to be torn away from Columbus, I can happily talk about the results of this game.
Columbus’s head coach, Gregg Berhalter, left at the end of last season to coach the United States Men’s National Team. The new ownership hired former Portland Timbers’ head coach Caleb Porter to lead the Crew in this new era. Porter has a very solid set of players to build upon as the majority of the players from last year have remained with the Crew.
There are currently only two changes in the Crew’s starting roster. Stellar left back Milton Valenzuela is out with a knee injury for the season. He will be replaced by Waylon Francis who returned to the Crew after a year with Seattle. Also, Gaston Sauro looks to have locked down the starting center back job next to Jonathan Mensah.
With a familiar starting line-up, the Crew were the first to concede a goal to a slightly different Red Bulls starting line-up as they are also currently playing in the CONCACAF Champions League. In the 6’, Andreas Ivan finished a ball that went over Harrison Afful’s head putting the Red Bulls up by 1.
Then, near the end of the first half, the Crew equalized with a Gaston Sauro header set up by a Federico Higuain corner kick. New York looked to grab the lead in the 76’, but it was flagged offsides resulting in a draw at the final whistle.
Thoughts about the Game:
I didn’t focus much on the difference between Porter’s style of play versus Berhalter’s. I did notice that both outside backs did not seem to push up into the offensive third as frequently as they seemed to last season. Wil Trapp didn’t seem to drop back between the center backs as much as he has in seasons past. The guys didn’t always seem to know where their teammates would be on the field, which is something I felt was apparent in Gregg’s system.
However, it is early, and I’m sure some of this is preseason rust and some of this is adjusting to new coach’s strategy.
I did feel that the Crew had a lot of dangerous moments. Several players had shots that were close to going in. I am really going to keep an eye on Pedro Santos this season. While not a Crew favorite, outside of the last play of the game, I felt he played a solid game. Maybe under a new coach, he can find the confidence that seems to be alluding him.
Now that everything is the way it should be, I look forward to games where the results matter to me because my team is where it is supposed to be. Looking forward to 3 points when the Crew take on New England this upcoming Saturday.
Featured image: Hilary
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