The Columbus Crew battled to a 2-2 draw with Atlanta United on Sunday, August 21st. The match had some good and some bad for the Crew, so let's break down what to think of it.
The first thing to notice was the weather. The match featured a lengthy weather delay prior to the start of the match, and it also rained during the match. While rain in Columbus in August is not a surprise, it was a story in the match...On the same note, it was good to see that FS1 stuck it with keeping the match on their channel even after the delay.
The best thing to take away from the match was the continued high level of play from Cucho. Cucho scored a brace in the match (with the two goals just seven or so minutes apart in the second half) to now put his total at eight goals through his first eight MLS matches. It does not take a soccer expert to know that is fantastic. If Cucho continues to play at this level, it has to bode well for Columbus down the stretch in their playoff push.
Both of Cucho's goals came after great build up from the Crew as a whole. Will Sands, Kevin Molino, and Luis Diaz picked up the assists. While Cucho will get a lot of the credit (and deservedly so) for his goalscoring, you have to give credit where it is due on these build-ups from the Crew as a whole. You also always like to see team goals.
A big drawback from Columbus is how they started the match. It wasn't a great first half for the Crew. Atlanta was the better team in the opening 45 minutes of the match. Whether it be due to the weather delay prior to the match or just a rough start, this was not the start to a match that you want if you are the Crew. Atlanta led 1-0 at the half, and could have led by multiple goals.
It's tough to put a lot of individual blame on Columbus for Atlanta's first goal, a wonderful strike from Santiago Sosa from outside the box. There's not much Eloy Room could do in that situation. The biggest complaint on the goal would be from more of a team perspective. Atlanta had three players around the ball at the time of the shot and there was next to no pressure from Columbus.
This allowed Sosa ample time to rip a fierce strike. Atlanta had way too much space on the outskirts of the box and a goal like that can happen when too much space is given. Someone from the Crew needs to step into the space and provide pressure.
The Atlanta equalizer however, wasn't great set piece defending by the Crew. Juan Purata was able to sky for a mostly uncontested header to score off of a corner. The frustrating part for the Crew is that they had players in the right position to make the contest, they just could not quite execute. This is one of those goals where Columbus just has to tighten things up just a bit to potentially take that next step.
All in all, it was a solid result for the Crew after an up and down performance. Columbus currently sits in the crucial seventh (and final playoff) spot in the Eastern Conference table. They are, however, close to multiple teams around them in each direction. The Crew are just one point out of fifth, but are also just one point ahead of ninth and just five points ahead of 13th. The Crew have nine matches remaining this season.
Also, my final takeaway is that Cucho needs to work on his celebrations. His knee slide attempt after his second goal looked unpleasant and painful. If Cucho is going to keep being a lethal goalscorer, then he needs to improve on his celebration game (I kid, I kid...mostly).