Tag Archives: Caleb Porter

Hell Is Real: Columbus Crew Meet New Rival

Official Columbus Crew Reporter

By Hilary // @hils4crew

On a beautiful summer Saturday night in Columbus, the Columbus Crew took on FC Cincinnati in the first ‘Hell is Real’ match. The name of this new rivalry rose organically from fans in reference to a giant billboard displaying the phrase as you travel between Columbus and Cincinnati on 71. With a Columbus Crew team that has struggled and was just finally finding an improvement in form and a FC Cincy team who has struggled to find its footing in its first year in the MLS, this was a battle of the bottom of the table.

Prior to kickoff, both teams and the stadium as a whole took a moment to honor the victims of recent gun violence in Dayton, Ohio. The stadium held a moment of silence, both teams wore black armbands throughout the match and posed with a #DaytonStrong banner, and both supporters’ groups were silent in the ninth minute of the game.

The Match

The Crew rolled out the familiar 4-2-3-1 line up. One of the major differences in this line up compared to those of recent games was that of Connor Maloney at left back. Maloney has been on the team since 2017 but is usually loaned out. However, since left back seems to be the position where the Crew has a plethora of injuries, Maloney got the start.

The Crew’s recent improvement in form seemed to have disappeared in the first 30 minutes of this game–with Cincy getting on the board twice. In the 16′, Darren Mattocks headed in a corner kick without being marked. In the 23′, Emmanuel Ledesma finished off a cross from Roland Lamah that skipped across the field and past both Crew center backs into the backside of the goal.

Before halftime in the 43′, Gyasi Zardes earned a PK as he was fouled by Maikel van der Werff while on the receiving end of a cross from Harrison Afful. Gyasi took and finished the PK pulling the Crew within 1 at halftime.

In the second half, FC Cincy had a few opportunities, but the Crew seemed to control most of the second half. They scored the tying goal in the 62′ off a restart from Afful to Will Trapp. Trapp passed the ball to Pedro Santos who sent a curling ball to the top left corner of the net from outside the 18.

In the 90′, two new players made a gallant attempt to get the Crew the winning goal. Romario Williams sent a ball to Youness Mokhtar, who made his Crew debut subbing in for Luis Diaz in the 54′. Mokhtar sent a beautiful cross to Zardes who at 3 yards out skied the ball into the cross bar and over the open net. In the 93′, David Accam shot the ball into a FC Cincy defender which then again hit the cross bar. In the 99′, the Crew was denied when Zardes hit a header from a Afful cross that was pushed over the net by the Cincy keeper Przemyslaw Tyton. And finally, in the 100′, Zardes was once again denied a header off a Mokhtar corner kick by Tyton.

The game ended in a 2-2 tie with both sets of fans hungry for more. The second part of the ‘Hell is Real’ rivalry will take place on August 25th.

Thoughts on the Team

I said this on Twitter, and I will say it again. This is a game we should have won. However, it was a very fun game to attend. It was a sold out crowd with passionate fans there for both sides. It felt like a playoff match. This will be a fun rivalry.

Outside of David Guzman, I am very happy with the players Caleb Porter has brought in throughout the season. This includes Youness Mokhtar who in his debut looked sharp, hard working, and put in some great crosses.

We need to continue to work on not giving up goals on set pieces–especially corner kicks. Leaving men unmarked during corner kicks is unacceptable and needs to stop. We also need to get more men in the box on the attack. I can’t tell you how many times we’d be crossing in a ball and the only person there was Zardes. This will not get us goals.

Also, we need to play the first half like we play the second half. Porter is making great adjustments at halftime that have resulted in better results recently. However, we need to come out prepared if we really want to be a formidable team in the long run.

Finally, I really believe Caleb Porter needs to figure out what is causing this high number of injuries. With the injuries to Milton Valenzuela, Waylon Francis, and Hector Jimenez, we had to rely on a fourth string defender who struggled. Ever since Steve Tashjian left to work for Gregg Berhalter as the head performance specialist of the USMNT, our injury count has dramatically risen. It’s worth investigating.

Let’s hope we continue to get healthy and continue to improve as we take on Toronto FC this Saturday.

Also, shout out the Columbus Crew groundskeeping crew. The field was flawless.

Featured image: Hilary

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @hils4crew

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Crew’s Woes Continue

Official Columbus Crew Reporter

By Hilary // @hils4crew

After an exceptional run by the USWNT in the World Cup and an improvement in the USMNT during the Gold Cup , it was hard to watch the Crew, in comparison, lose their last three games in seven days. The losses continue to mount and while the Columbus Crew fans are definitely grateful to have a team, that team has been difficult to watch.

On Saturday, June 29, Columbus Crew took on Orlando City. In a game where the Crew dominated possession and limited Orlando to three shots, they still managed to lose the game 2-0. The best part of the game was honoring former club coach and legend Sigi Schmid into the Crew’s Circle of Honor at halftime. The Crew welcomed the Schmid family, watched tributes to Sigi, and presented the family with a beautiful collage of Sigi’s time in Columbus.

Then on Wednesday, July 3, the Crew traveled to Salt Lake City to take on RSL. Due to the three games in seven days, Caleb Porter made some line up changes. He gave JJ Williams the start at forward and Eduardo Sosa an elusive start in midfield; Niko Hansen returned from wherever Porter has been hiding him to play in the midfield, where he was joined by Ricardo Clark; Aboubacar Keita made his MLS debut at center back; and Joe Bendik made a grab for the starting goalkeeper position again.

While Caleb had limited player selection due to injury and call-ups when rotating his squad, it was nice to see some players who have gotten very little to no playing time a chance to prove if they were hungry enough to unseat the struggling starters.

Unfortunately, the Crew were unable to finish any shots, and Sam Johnson finished a beautiful opportunity by beating both Crognale and Keita to a long ball that they both let bounce over their heads.

Returning home this past Saturday, the Crew played the Seattle Sounders. In a game that honestly felt do or die, the Crew couldn’t hold on to an early lead and lost to Seattle 2-1.

With a slight tweak in the line up we have been seeing recently, Josh Williams stepped in at centerback, but JJ Williams and Joe Bendik kept their starting spots from the RSL game, playing forward and keeper respectively.

The Crew had hope for a possible victory after a PK by Pedro Santos in the 13′. However, Nicolas Lodeiro, who spent a lot of time rolling on the grass with dire injuries at MAPFRE Stadium, seemed to be the difference maker for Seattle. He sank a PK in the 56′ and scored a final goal for the Sounders in extra time. At the end of the game, multiple Crew players collapsed to the ground–exhausted from giving it their all, their all not being enough.

After the 1-2 loss to Seattle, multiple Crew players collapsed to the ground — exhausted from giving it their all, their all not being enough. Photo by Hilary.

Thoughts about the Team:

This is hard. Watching this team is hard. Because I feel for these guys. I believe they are putting everything they can out on the field. If we the fans feel frustrated, then I can’t even imagine how they feel. Do I think part of this is an emotional hangover from the past season and half of off-field drama? Yes, I do.

Did we have a time under Berhalter where we struggled to score goals? Yes, we absolutely did. But in those cases, we typically had a solid defense who minimized the damage the opposition did to us. This is not happening this year. And while I know we are missing Milton Valenzuela to injury, his replacement Waylon Francis is a very good left back. This can not be blamed on injuries.

Is Caleb Porter getting everything out of these guys that he can? I don’t know. I understand we have injuries and call ups, and while I don’t believe every player is elite caliber, I believe they can play a solid game of soccer. However, the adjustment between playing styles has not been as seamless as many thought, including Caleb himself.

However, this isn’t Caleb’s chosen roster. He inherited a roster in January that he had limited time to evaluate and tweak. Do I think a roster blow up is coming? Yes, I do. It’s already started. There will be many players that I will be heartbroken to lose. But to give Caleb a real chance to develop this club into what he thought it could be, it probably has to happen.

With recent additions coming in the transfer window of Eloy Room, keeper of the Curacao National team, Luis Diaz from Club Sport Herediano (Costa Rica) and Romario Williams from Atlanta United, it is hopeful that these players can make an immediate and positive impact for the struggling Crew when they take the field July 13 in a rematch against Orlando.

Featured image: Hilary

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @hils4crew

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Who is this Team? Crew versus SKC

Official Columbus Crew Reporter

By Hilary // @hils4crew

Well, I have been absent from writing due to some work and travel obligations, and it’s hard to recognize the team now that I am back.  Between trades, injuries, and loans, this team is a dramatically different one than the one I left six weeks ago. 

The Columbus Crew have traded Justin Meram to Atlanta and loaned out Lalas Abubakar to Colorado Rapids for the year.  We have picked up David Guzman from Portland Timbers, and David Accam has joined the team from Philadelphia Union for the rest of the year.  In addition, Waylon Francis and Harrison Afful are just returning from injury, Josh Williams is hurt, and our major playmaker, Federico Higuain is out for the rest of the season with a torn ACL.

If that doesn’t make your head spin, then keep in mind that during this game against Sporting Kansas City, we were also missing Wil Trapp and Gyasi Zardes to the USMNT, and Zack Steffen who was also with the USMNT has played his final game in a Crew jersey as he goes to Europe in July.  

With a Kansas City team who has also been struggling with injury and can only put six players on the bench, the Crew had an opportunity to win their second game in the last eleven.  Jon Kempin has been the starting keeper since Steffen’s exit, and the back four included Waylon Francis, Alex Crognale, and Gaston Sauro.  The midfield wings were Hector Jimenez and David Accam with David Guzman and Artur holding down the center of the midfield with Patrick Mullins on top.

The Crew had several opportunities to put the ball in the goal, but they just couldn’t seem to do so.  In the 19’, Patrick Mullins had difficulty finishing off a Pedro Santos corner kick that had been sent in to him by Gaston Suaro.  The Crew should have had several goals throughout the game as the SKC keeper Tim Melia blocked but did not hold to several shots the Crew made on goal.

In the 48’, SKC’s Felipe Gutierrez headed in a goal without any one between him and the goal off an assist from Gerso.  In the 74’, Afful received a red card for a tackle on Gerso that denied an obvious scoring opportunity.

The game ended in a 1-0 loss for the Crew who can’t seem to put a complete game together. 

Thoughts on the match:

This has been an incredibly frustrating period of time for Crew fans as the team cannot seem to pull together a win.  We have had injuries and call ups, but I do think the majority of the team that was out on the field on Saturday are capable of pulling out a win.  Watching the highlights after being at the match, the Crew had a lot of opportunities, but continue to be unable to find the back of the net.  

I am not sure about David Guzman.  He has replaced Artur as the starter when Wil Trapp is not on national team duty.  It doesn’t seem to work.  However, I think part of the reason the team has struggled is due to head coach Caleb Porter’s change in how he has Wil Trapp and his midfield partner (Guzman or Artur) play.  I think Wil’s and Artur’s play has also declined with the system tweaks that Porter is making and actually weakening what I consider the spine of the team

However, I am not ready to write Porter off.  While I never hide that he wasn’t my first choice for this job and I don’t consider the injuries an excuse, there are going to be growing pains with a new coach.  I’m willing to give him more time, but that doesn’t make the growing pains any less painful as a fan.  So I definitely do not fault anyone who is looking for a replacement for Porter already. 

Let’s hope the team can find some footing this upcoming Saturday against Orlando City.  The team is honoring former Crew coach and legend Sigi Schmid with a place in the team’s Circle of Honor at halftime of the game.  An additional way to honor Schmid would be for the Crew to get 3 points.

Featured image: @ColumbusCrewSC

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And It Was All Yellow

Official Columbus Crew Reporter

By Hilary // @hils4crew

That was the pregame song playing as the scoreboard showed a montage of Columbus Crew plays, and the yellow soccer team, ironically not wearing yellow, won the game 1-0 against FC Dallas this past Saturday.

Rolling out a line-up similar to the last home game with the exception of Robinho starting in place of Justin Meram, the team got the winning goal early in the game.  In the 10’, Pedro Santos took a near post corner kick aimed at the head of Gaston Sauro.  Sauro, who was being hugged by one FC Dallas defender and closely guarded by a second defender, jumped and headed the ball into the net. 

Two seasons ago, Crew fans and Gaston Sauro himself did not know if he would ever play soccer again.  Now, he’s put in goals in both of the Crew’s home games.  Currently, he’s tied with Gyasi Zardes, who had a brace last week against the New England Revolution, for goals. 

Robinho had a dangerous shot in the 21’ that rebounded off the keeper, but Zardes had trouble finishing the ball skying it over the net.  The Crew kept the pressure and shots coming throughout the first half but were unable to put any more into the back of the net.

In the second half, FC Dallas seemed to be more dangerous.  Michael Barrios had a nice shot in the 55’ that Zack Steffen was able to slow down and Sauro was able to clear.  In the last 15 minutes of the game, FC Dallas seemed to possess the ball more and shot the ball several times.  In past seasons, the Crew would have conceded a goal at these times of pressure, so it was nice to see them finish the game with a win.

Other Thoughts:

  • In Porter’s system, it appears that Artur and Wil Trapp will be doing more shifting back and forth between offense and defense instead of Wil being more defensively-minded. I feel like I’ve seen Trapp make more mistakes and not bring his A-game this season.  I don’t know if this is Wil adjusting to the new system, if Wil’s skills doesn’t fit this style as well, or if I’m just being nit-picky. I was a Gregg Berhalter fan but have yet to form an opinion about what I think of Caleb Porter yet.
  • I do feel that Pedro Santos is finally finding his form.  Maybe he needed a new coach, but now he has several assists on the season and had some great passes and shots in this match.  
  • I am nervous about when Zack Steffen leaves this team for Manchester City in June.  I just don’t see what goalkeeper can step in and do what he does for this team.  He was supposed to be out this upcoming week with the US Men’s National Team, but due to a knee injury sustained in training, he is missing this round of friendlies and this week’s upcoming Crew game too.  I guess we will see who might step up in Steffen’s absence.
  • In addition, the team will be missing Wil Trapp, Gyasi Zardes, Justin Meram, and Waylon Francis for the next Crew match due to national team call ups.

It’ll be interesting to see how Caleb Porter deals with a slightly depleted roster for the call ups as they travel to take on the Philadelphia Union this weekend. 

Featured image: @ColumbusCrewSC

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @hils4crew

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale