Crew Coverage

Crew Coverage pres. by Medical Mutual | Nancy: Draw with RSL a “good performance’

For Columbus Crew head coach Wilfried Nancy, Saturday night was all about opportunity. 

For some players, it was an opportunity to rest and recover after advancing to the Concacaf Champions Cup semifinals for the first time in club history. For other players, it was the opportunity to make debuts, return to the pitch and earn valuable minutes that will benefit everyone in the future. 

That the match ended with a positive result – a scoreless draw on the road against a strong Real Salt Lake side – was the icing on the cake. 

“To be honest with you, I expected what we did [on Saturday],” Nancy said after the match. “We didn't win, but in terms of performance, it was a good performance. We were close to score the goal that we wanted. There were chances also, but they didn't score. Yeah, I am really happy because when I put the team, I don't like to put the team by default; I put the team because I trust them. I trust my players as they know how to play. They did it well.”

Nancy made nine changes to the Starting XI from Tuesday night’s match in El Volcán against Tigres UANL. Patrick Schulte and Darlington Nagbe, who both featured in that match, didn’t suit up against RSL. Nancy said it was simply for rest. Cucho Hernández missed the match with a one-game suspension.

For Nagbe, that meant snapping his 108-consecutive MLS regular season matches played streak – the second-longest run in league history.

However, this meant others could seize their moment. 

Eighteen-year-old Taha Habroune started the match and made his MLS debut, logging 69 minutes in the draw. In addition to becoming the second-youngest player in Columbus history to start an MLS match, Habroune also became the first Crew Academy graduate to appear for both Crew 2 and the First Team.

Additionally, Philip Quinton made his season debut against RSL after featuring in a dozen matches last season. 

Nicholas Hagen also made his Crew debut after joining the club ahead of the 2024 regular season. The 27-year-old Guatemalan international replaced an injured Evan Bush in the 35th minute. 

“I wanted to give him minutes so I decided to go with Bushy because Bushy played already in Salt Lake with the altitude and so on,” Nancy said of Hagen. “When Nicholas came in, he did a good job. He made a few saves. Also, he was calm and composed with the ball so good for him.”

Nancy said he was pleased with everyone’s performance. 

“I was happy to give the first start and minutes for Taha this year,” the coach said. “He deserved it, and also (Phil (Quinton), he's been training well, and I didn’t have the chance [to put him in the lineup before]. The only sad part is Bushy. He's been injured. He made a really good save. I'm really pleased, I’m really happy because, as you know, we have played many games. In terms of emotion, it was not easy to switch on, but they did it well. I'm really happy for that.

Additionally, Alexandru Mățan, who had missed time with a thigh injury, logged his third league appearance this season. The RSL match was Mățan’s first MLS match since March 2 at Minnesota United FC, although he played 30 minutes in the Tigres match this past Tuesday.

Despite the squad rotation and limited recovery time, Nancy said he was pleased the Crew earned a point against one of the Western Conference’s best teams to start the season. 

“I’m really happy because, as you know, we have played many games,” Nancy said. “In terms of emotion, it was not easy to switch on, but they did it well. I'm really happy for that.”

Following the two-match road trip, the Black & Gold return to the Ohio capital this week and host the Portland Timbers on Saturday night at Field.

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