Now that MLS play has resumed after a couple of weeks of downtime, Columbus Crew is gearing up to get their full team back. With different international federations around the globe having competitions in the last few weeks, four Crew players spent time out with their national teams. Now those Crew players return from international duty, as Columbus gears up to head into the second half of the MLS season.
Here, we’ll take a look at the four players who were playing for their national teams, how the players performed, and how their national teams did as well, after the Crew returned to league action on the weekend with a 1-1 draw against Charlotte FC.
Derrick Etienne Jr. (Haiti)
This international break marked the start of the 2022/23 edition of the Concacaf Nations League. Etienne Jr. has been playing some of his best international soccer of the last year-plus, so it was not surprising to see him get a call-up or for him to play a lot for Haiti. It was a busy couple of weeks for Haiti who played four matches in the Nations League.
Haiti opened up the competition on June 4th against Bermuda in a 0-0 draw. Etienne would get the start in the match, playing 87 minutes before getting subbed out late.
That would be the least productive match of the break for Haiti, who picked up three big wins after that. Haiti jumped ahead early and held on for a 3-2 win against Montserrat, and Etienne once again got the start. This time he was subbed off in the 75th minute without scoring.
Then came the two blowout wins over Guyana. Etienne Jr. would have a great game in the third game on June 11th, scoring twice in the match in quick succession to put Haiti up 4-1 and 5-1 with goals in the 41st and 43rd minutes respectively. He would ultimately be subbed off in the 81st minute in a comfortable 6-2 win.
Haiti played Guyana again on June 14th, and this time it was even more emphatic a blowout at 6-0. Etienne played the full 90 minutes, even though he did not score.
Overall for the international break, Etienne started all four of Haiti’s matches, playing 333 minutes and scoring two goals. In terms of the competition, Haiti is in a really good position in terms of trying to earn promotion. They currently have 10 points through four matches, putting them four points ahead of 2nd placed Guyana with two matches remaining. Haiti will play Montserrat and Bermuda each one more time in a later window.
One thing to watch as he comes back is that Etienne might need a break coming back to Columbus due to playing so much in a short time frame. Etienne has three goals and five assists this season for Columbus across 14 matches. He now has scored seven goals for Haiti across 37 matches.
Jonathan Mensah (Ghana)
Ghana played in four matches this International break across two different competitions. They opened up with two matches in the Africa Cup of Nations qualifying round, before playing two matches in the Kirin Cup. Mensah would play in only one match out of the four, a draw with the Central African Republic, before returning with an injury.
That match ended in a 1-1 draw, with Mensah getting the start in the match and playing 63 minutes before being subbed off with a serious head injury which landed him in hospital. The 31-year-old helped Ghana hold a whopping 72% of possession in the match.
In MLS this season, Mensah has played in and started 13 matches, with one goal and one assist on the year before missing the weekend's game against Charlotte as he continues to recover from his injury. Mensah has been a fixture on the Ghana backline for over a decade now, appearing in around 70 matches total. It will be interesting to see whether Mensah gets a call up with Ghana for the World Cup later this year, now that he’s 31 years old.
Eloy Room (Curacao)
Curacao was also playing in the Concacaf Nations League, in the top league (League A) – a step above Haiti, sitting in Group C with Canada and Honduras. Room started and played the full 90 minutes between the sticks in all three matches for Curacao this break.
In the opening match on June 3rd against Honduras, Room allowed a goal in the 23rd minute which would give Honduras the 1-0 victory. He made one save in the match.
Curacao would turn around and quickly play Honduras again on June 6th, but it was a better result this time for Curacao who would pick up a 2-1 win. The goal that Room allowed was in the 94th minute while Curacao led 2-0 late, but it ended up not affecting the result. Room made three saves in the match.
Room and Curacao had a rough go of it as a whole in their third match on June 9th against arguably the top team in CONCACAF (Canada). Canada pulled away in the 2nd half to knock off Curacao 4-0. Room made four saves in the match.
Curacao has one match remaining in the group stage of the Champions League coming up in a later window. They are currently tied with Canada for 2nd place in the group with three points, while Honduras sits on top with six points. Curacao could finish anywhere from 1st to 3rd in the group, but have a lot of work to do to avoid relegation (the 3rd place finisher in the group is relegated to League B). Curacao’s remaining match is against Canada (Canada also has a match against Honduras in the next window).
Overall, Room started all three matches, playing 270 minutes this break. He allowed six goals, and made eight saves total. Room has been the Crew’s only keeper to appear in a match this season, allowing 1.21 goals per match in MLS play. Internationally, Room has appeared in over 40 matches for Curacao in net since 2015.
Milos Degenek (Australia)
It was a very productive international break for Australia, who qualified for the 2022 World Cup. Australia had a friendly against Jordan before playing the United Arab Emirates in Asia’s final eliminator. A win there put Australia into a World Cup Qualifying playoff against Peru where they would come out victorious. Degenek only appeared in one match in the break, as a sub, however.
Degenek was subbed on in the 91st minute against UAE on June 7th in the final Asian qualifier, a game which Australia won 2-1. He was a defensive replacement to help Australia see out the match after they went ahead late.
Australia will now head to the World Cup where they are in Group D alongside France, Denmark, and Tunisia. Degenek will hope he can earn a spot on Australia’s World Cup roster. Degenek has played 35 times for the Australian national team in his career. He now returns to Columbus, where he has played ten matches this season.