Crew Thoughts: Crew 1-0 Atlanta

The Columbus Crew kicked off their 2024 season with a bang, securing a 1-0 victory against Atlanta United in their season opener at Field. Here are our thoughts on the the game flow, key moments, and standout performances.

Atlanta United FC v Columbus Crew
Atlanta United FC v Columbus Crew / Jason Mowry/GettyImages

As the Crew embark on their 2024 campaign, the win against Atlanta sets a promising tone. The fans at Field witnessed a team hungry for success and eager to build upon their previous achievements. The Crew continued their free-flowing and fluid style from 2023 by owning the match in the first half. The second half was much closer but the Crew were able to hang on to their one-goal lead for their first win of the season. It was a game that Crew teams from years past may not have been able to close out. Here's the good and the bad from the game.

The Good:

Farsi's Standout Performance

Many fans would point to the only goal scorer and Man of the Match, Cucho Hernandez, as the standout performance of the game. However, there were plenty of players who could make their case as the biggest standout player in this game. Darlington Nagbe controlled the midfield and completed 97.8% of his passes. Business as usual for him. Patrick Schulte came up with three saves down the stretch including this clutch save below to preserve the lead.

But it was Mohammad Farsi, who only played 51 minutes before being subbed out due to injury, who was our standout performer of the game. In his short time on the pitch, he was able to complete 3 key passes that led to great offensive opportunities.

Farsi was all over the pitch during the match. He played a beautiful cross in the 11th minute that Jacen Russell-Rowe wasn't able to capitalize on. He got behind the ATL defense in the 17th minute but was called offside just before a Guzan handball that could have changed the game. And it was Farsi again who earned a penalty early in the second half before his day was done prematurely. It's clear, Farsi made a BIG impact in a short time and that's why Standout Performer for week one.

Moment of the Match

The moment of the match in a one-goal win is usually going to be the game's only goal. And in this game, it's no different. Cucho putting away his first of the season earned the Crew the full 3 points. A strong start for a potential golden boot run.

The Bad:

Missed Chances

The surprise of the opening day XI was Jacen Russell-Rowe. Russell-Rowe, who started only 4 games last season, started the first game of the season and probably should have put away a chance or two. He had at least two great looks on goal in the first half alone that should have challenged Atlanta's keeper. While Nancy does like to play his young guns, I'd like to see him come off the bench for the next game as I don't believe he has the clinical finishing to be a full-time starter just yet. I'll share options for his replacement a little later.

Replacement Refs

The only real negative coming out of the season opener - how much longer will the league have to deal with these refs? As the negotiations continue between MLS and PRO, the replacement refs left fans and players wanting more. There were a few close offside calls that could have gone either way and an uncharacteristically long VAR review on the penalty call.

Farsi's Injury

Farsi's injury could be a concern if he missed a significant amount of time. Even still, the Crew should be able to fill the whole temporarily with the roster as it currently stands.

Looking Ahead:

Schedule Congestion

The Crew's next match is away at Minnesota United on March 2nd before a quick turnaround for their first CONCACAF Champions Cup game on March 6th. In total, the Crew will play 5 matches through the first half of March. It will be interesting to see what head coach Wilfred Nancy has in store for roster rotation through this coming stretch.

Changes to the Starting IX

Head coach Wilfried Nancy has two real options to replace Russell-Rowe on the roster. Both Alex Matan and Christian Ramirez have played in that position previously. Matan is more of a playmaker who can look for the critical pass while Ramirez is a true goal-poacher who needs good service. The choice Nancy makes in this position will likely change the way the Crew builds their play in the attack.