Cucho Hernandez makes immediate Crew impact in comeback win over Chicago
The Columbus Crew kept their unbeaten streak alive on Saturday, July 9th as they rallied from down 2-0 to beat the Chicago Fire 3-2. Columbus has now gotten points in six straight matches, winning three matches along with three draws in that span. Derrick Etienne Jr. scored a brace in the match, and then Cucho Hernandez scored the match winner in his Crew debut.
This six match point streak has Columbus right on the edge of the playoff picture (Columbus has gotten 12 points in their last six matches). Columbus is currently tied for eighth in the East with 25 points (seven teams make the playoffs). They're just one point back of that seventh spot (and technically sixth, as two teams are tied for sixth with 26 points). Columbus is also just three points back of fifth place.
In this match, Chicago jumped out in front with two goals in the first half from Rafael Czichos and Chris Mueller. Czichos scored in the 29th minute indirectly off a corner. Chicago played the corner short and then up the flank before Mueller played the ball into the box and Czichos directed it past Eloy Room, off the post and in. Mueller scored his goal in the 41st minute as Jhon Duran played the ball in low into the box and Mueller put it home as Chicago led 2-0 at the half.
Then came the big Columbus run in the final 30 minutes. Etienne Jr. scored in the 63rd minute as he scored after a great through ball from Lucas Zelarayan. The pass split three defenders and then Etienne took a dribble before expertly putting the ball into the opposite side of the net.
Cucho Hernandez scored as Columbus Crew beat the Chicago Fire 3-2
Etienne Jr. then got the second goal of his brace and the equalizer in the 75th minute. The goal came quickly off of a throw. Etienne got the ball and showed off his dribbling skills as he made his way around a defender, and passed the ball to Zelarayan who then moved it to the opposite side to Luis Diaz. Diaz then put great cross back to Etienne Jr. in the box and Etienne one-timed the ball on a slight volley into the net for a great team goal from the Crew.
Then came the 83rd minute match-winner and debut goal from Cucho. Diaz got a takeaway right on the edge of the Chicago attacking third. He played a long ball to Cucho who was wide open streaking down the right side. Cucho then beat the keeper 1v1 with a nice chip finish to put Columbus in front for good.
The match really seemed to be a tale of two halves. Chicago was in control in the first half (even outside of their two goals), as they had several really strong chances in the opening 45 minutes that they just couldn't put home. Columbus however turned things around in the second half, controlling possession and scoring the three goals to storm back and win the match.
Columbus led the possession battle in the match 56.6% to 43.4%. As a part of that, the Crew also completed 82.7% of their passes, compared to just 75.9% for Chicago. Columbus also won more duels in the match with a 55 to 47 advantage, and had more clearances (23 to 11).
Chicago did have the edge in both shots and shots on target, however. They led in shots 13-9 and then led in shots on target 5-4. Chicago held the advantage in expected goals 2.2-1.8. However the edge in xG was not enough for the Fire to come out on top as the Crew got the three points.
The two halftime subs (Etienne Jr. and Diaz) made a huge difference in the match for the Crew. Etienne scored the two goals and completed 76.9% of his passes in 45 minutes. He also made a tackle and won six duels.
In his 45 minutes, Diaz had two assists and made three key passes, while also completing 80% of his passes.
Zelarayan also played well as he also had two assists, completed 78.4% of his passes, and won 12 duels. He made two key passes in the match.
As mentioned previously, this was the debut for Cucho Hernandez. He scored and also made a key pass in 28 minutes. Hernandez joined Columbus recently as he made his way over from Watford for a large transfer fee of $10m. The Crew will hope that Cucho provides a major boost for their offense, as he did in this match after coming on for the final half-hour.
Columbus has a lot of momentum at the moment, and seem to be turning things around. Adding Cucho to the mix should also help the Crew as they push towards the playoffs as we're nearing the 2/3rds mark of the seaosn.
Up next for the Crew, they will take their six-match unbeaten streak into the nation's capital to take on DC United on Wednesday, July 13th.