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A View From the Couch Columbus Crew vs DC United - A Game Review

Game Recap:

The Columbus Crew enjoyed much of the ball, but didn’t control the game for large swaths of the match. The Black & Red came out with a game plan and stuck to it diligently. In the first half, the Crew were only able to generate one real scoring opportunity, while United were able to create more chances despite not having the ball.

The crowd was electric and it showed in the team’s play, as the Crew pinned the Black & Red in their half early and often.

Columbus was on the front foot from the start with Cucho Hernandez back from the dog house leading the Crew’s line. 

The Black & Red would take the lead in the 61st minute in what is becoming a signature United moment. The press won DC the ball, leading to an attacking moment that gets turned away, United recovers and the ball ends up with Benteke, who scores. And suddenly Field grew silent.

The game would continue as it had been played for most of the night, the Crew would continue to control the ball, but lacked real danger. The United defenders would focus on Cucho Hernandez, and try to get under his skin. This bore fruit in the 75th minute when Hernandez kicked out at McVey, after being pushed to the ground from behind. His studs caught McVey’s leg, and just like that Hernandez went from winning his team a free kick in a dangerous position to getting sent off with a straight red.

Things looked good for United to pick up the win as they were up a man, and continued to stifle the Crew’s opportunities. Unfortunately for DC, Aidan Morris would score with a golonzo of a goal at the 87th minute.

A disappointing result for the Black & Red because of how the game played out, but a result the team would have taken prior to kickoff. United now has four draws on the road, and has traveled to four stadiums where it is difficult to get points. United should have a lot of confidence when they return to Audi Field to face Orlando City SC next week.

First Half

The game kicked off and the Crew pushed up into the attack from the get-go. The Crew stayed with their familiar setup with Adrien Morris and Darlington Nagbe playing in their usual spots in the middle of the field, and the two set a pivot that the Crew’s ball movement revolved around.

One of the attackers, usually Rossi but sometimes Jacen Russell-Rowe, would drop into the midfield to increase their numbers as they tried to pass around United’s deeper line. Nancy’s strategy seemed to be to give Cucho Hernandez as much space to operate as possible, but Head Coach Lesesne’s tactical approach closed that space off.

In response United employed various formations, including a 4-4-2  in defense and a 4-1-2-3 in offense, adjusting to the Crew’s various strategies. United used a midline press to aggressively disrupt the Crew’s build-up play. Their coordinated pressing forced turnovers and the Black & Red moved swiftly into the attack. This meant that though Columbus had more of the ball in the opening half, it was the Black & Red who created the majority of the chances. Surprise starter Jackson Hopkins provided the first real chance when he took a deep shot from distance in the second minute of the game that hit the left post. 

Later Benteke had a pair of quality chances just before halftime, the first blocked by a Crew defender and the second was saved by Crew goalkeeper Patrick Schulte.

The half ended with both teams tied at zero.

Second Half

The second half kicked off started much as the first half was played, with the Crew pressing the attack, and controlling the ball. Head Coach Nancy made one tweak that seemed to help the Crew’s offense with Russell-Rowe coming inside and acting as a second striker alongside Cucho Hernandez.

The Black & Red withstood the pressure and maintained an aggressive and physical style of play that disrupted the Crew’s rhythm. By the end of the game they would record 19 fouls compared to the Crew's seven.

Christian Benteke would open the scoring in the game’s 61st minute on a right-footed shot from the center of the box thanks to a feed from Jared Stroud.  Benteke started the sequence leading to his goal when his flick-on header from a previous cross kept the ball alive for Aaron Herrera to reach on the right flank. Stroud hit a cross that deflected toward the penalty spot, where Benteke used his 6 ‘3 frame to get space and used a first-time, side-footed shot that gave Schulte no chance to save.

DC United’s strategy to stymie Cucho Hernandez was more successful than they could possibly have expected when he lashed out at Chris McVey and picked up a red card. Prior to his ejection, Hernandez only attempted two shots, none of which were on goal. He had to drop deeper than he likes to receive the ball and he was only able to achieve a 61.1% accurate pass rating on twenty -two passes.

Despite Hernandez’s early exit, United would not be able to see out the win. Not long after DC United had missed a golden opportunity to go to up the Crew managed to get the tying goal. It was Aidan Morris who salvaged the point for the Crew with a goal in the 87th minute. Columbus had made eight shot attempts, three on goal, before Morris connected with the back of the net.

The build up to the goal had the Black & Red dealing with the first cross from the right, heading the ball clear. But as it fell to Morris who dribbled into space. The United defenders were slow to close him down, and the Crew’s young midfielder unleashed a powerful right-footed strike that sailed through a crowd which shielded Bono from seeing the ball till it was too late. Bono dove but the fast moving ball slotted past him, just inside the left post.

The game would go on for an another eight minutes with six extra minutes added, but neither team really threatened to get the winner.

The Black & Red continued to demonstrate promising progress in revamping the team culture and tactics under Troy Lesesne, despite only getting another draw.

Columbus Crew 1 - DC United 1 

Game Stats

Observations From the TV Den: 

  • I can’t seem to get any sound.

  • Hopkins nearly opened his scoring account with a belter from distance.

  • United’s press  clogged up the middle, and made it tough for the Crewto get any rhythm.

  • There were chances there for DC, the difference so far is just inches.

  • Benteke had two great chances in the first half but he just couldn’t put the header on net.

  • In the first half, Aaron Herrera is just owning Will Sands.

  • Connor Antley is definitely earning his starts.

  • Tied at the half

  • DC finally put together a string of passes together like they were able to in the first half.

  • Sound came on


  • Great goal by Benteke

  • Cucho is gone! Straight Red

  • Dang, Schulte spilled a cross in front of goal, but it was behind Pirani

  • Great steal by Pirani

  • Damn! Aidan Morris just hit a Gloanzo to tie the game 

  • Game ends a draw

Words from the Gaffer: 

Troy Lesesne: “When we reflect on the first seven matches—who the opponents have been. How we have shown in virtually every match so far, then you come to Columbus, and control much of the match, and go up by one—we’re building something. I think this is really important focus. We’re building something, or rather rebuilding something, both on the field and behind the scenes.”

Player Ratings:

Alex Bono                      6.5

Conner Antley                7.8

Lucas Bartlett                 6.8

Christopher McVey        7.2

Aaron Herrera                6.8

Cristian Dájome             7.4

Jared Stroud                   7.5

Jackson Hopkins            6.8

Mateusz Klich                6.7

Ted Ku-DiPietro             6.5

Christian Benteke           8.2


Matti Peltola                  6.0

Gabriel Pirani                6.2

Pedro Santos                  6.8

Man of the Match: Aaron Herrera 

Right Back Aaron Herrera has an amazing pickup by United's front office, contributing both defensively and offensively. Against the Crew, Herrera shut down Will Sands, helped stifle Cucho, and helped create numerous scoring opportunities.

Next Match: DC United returns to Audi Field to take on Orlando City on April 13 at 7:30 pm ET.


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