Picture Credits: Columbus Crew
Saturday night was the long-awaited debut of the new man up front for the Black and Gold. Though he did not start, he played a huge role in the 3-2 victory over Chicago in the Windy City.
The first half was one that the Black and Gold would want to forget. Chicago thoroughly outplayed Columbus, resulting in the Black and Gold trailing 2-0 at halftime. Chicago got the scoring started in the 29th minute when Rafael Czichos. A short corner played to new signing Chris Mueller, who whipped in a cross that found the head of Czichos.
A few moments before halftime, the Fire would double their lead off a strike from Chris Mueller, who was able to slot the ball past Eloy Room.
The second half is when things get interesting.
Caleb Porter made two substitutions coming out of halftime, bringing on speed and pace in Derrick Etienne Jr and Luis Diaz, who replaced Jalil Anibaba and Sean Zawadzki, respectively. Caleb Porter started the match in a 3-5-2, a formation that has worked this season while on the road. But, halftime adjustments and substitutions forced Porter to revert back to a 4-2-3-1.
Former Crew 2 striker Jacen Russell-Rowe earned his third straight start and was lively in the minutes he played in this match. But things would change in the 62nd minute when Cucho Hernandez was brought on for his club debut.
And that is when the match turned on its head.
One minute after entering the match, second-half substitute Derrick Etienne Jr. cut the deficit in half with a curling effort that got past Chicago goalkeeper Gaga Slonina. And from that point, it was all Black and Gold.
Chance after chance seemed like they were squandered, but the equalizer would come 12 minutes later, once again from Etienne, off a pass from Luis Diaz who flashed the ball across the face of the goal and was tapped in.
Next, it was time for the big-money signing. In the 83rd minute, after a transition pass from Luiz Diaz, Cucho Hernandez turned on the jets and went 1v1 with Slonina, chipping the teenage goalkeeper for the game-winning goal.
In a match that seemed to be headed the wrong way for the Black and Gold, head coach Caleb Porter must be credited with the changes he made at halftime, turning the game on its head, and thus resulting in a 3-2 Crew victory.
Columbus teams of the past may have given up, and gone through the motions in the second half to get the match over with. Instead, Porter pushed the right buttons, and the Black and Gold showed just how good they can be.
This goes hand in hand with the previous takeaway. The mentality of this team seems to have shifted for the better. In years past, Columbus was known to have a weak mentality. Losing games they shouldn't, losing big leads, etc. But, this year seems to be different. And for that, I cannot complain.
Road Woes No More?
Something that has plagued the Black and Gold recently has been their inability to win games on the road. That seems to have changed this season, with Columbus only losing two games on the road this season, the lowest in MLS. They also have three away victories, which is equal to the total they have won in the past two seasons combined. Now, they must figure out a way to get wins on the road.
It's another week that sees the Black and Gold play three games in days. The Crew faces a trip to the nation's capital Wednesday night, before returning home for the first leg of the "Hell Is Real" Derby. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.