COLUMBUS – The excitement was tangible at MAPFRE Stadium on Saturday thanks to Crew SC's new and old faces. A close 3-2 victory over the Portland Timbers was due — in part — to the efforts of midfielder Niko Hansen, defender Waylon Francis, and forward Ola Kamara.
Hansen made waves in his first Major League Soccer action for Crew SC. He netted the game-winning goal in the 84th minute off a rebound and instantly made his mark as a member of the team after entering the game as a substitution just 24 minutes earlier. The rookie became the 10th player in club history to score in his Crew SC debut.
Hansen, from the University of New Mexico by way of Sacramento, Calif., was selected ninth overall in the 2017 SuperDraft. The 22-year-old also completed eight passes and won two tackles to go along with his match-winning goal.
Crew SC Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter spoke on Hansen’s debut and performance after the game.
“This week he’s looked good again and we really wanted to get him involved in the game," Berhalter said. "If you take out the goal, I think his performance was spectacular. I mean very secure on the ball, defensive work was excellent. In a debut for him, it shows he’s got quality.”
Hansen basked in the moment following the game and his go-ahead goal.
“It feels great," he said. "It took a little bit of figuring out to see if it was real. It’s unbelievable, there’s so many people you want to thank in that moment, my family, the fans and the team of course.”
Francis also made a debut Saturday, but it was not his first action as a member of Crew SC. Francis returned to the lineup for the first time since September 10, 2016. It was his 72nd MLS appearance and 66th start for the Black & Gold.
Francis underwent successful shoulder surgery on October 4, 2016 and missed the remainder of last season along with the beginning of the 2017 campaign. The 26-year-old from Puerto Limón, Costa Rica, played all 90 minutes in the match.
Francis recorded 28 successful passes in the match, along with two interceptions and two key passes.
A familiar face made an impact for the Black & Gold on the offensive end during the contest, as Kamara scored once again on an impressive half-volley chip over the Portland goalkeeper in the 19th minute.
Kamara has scored in four out of his last five matches dating back to last season. The 26-year-old forward from Oslo, Norway, scored just last week on a penalty kick during Crew SC’s 2-0 victory over DC United.
Kamara is continuing his scoring stretch this season after winning the club’s Golden Boot Award for his 16-goal performance over the course of last season, his first with Crew SC. Kamara also tallied 12 successful passes, won a tackle, and headed a clearance during the match against the Timbers.
Berhalter was impressed with the forward’s performance following the match.
“I thought it was good, I thought it was very good," Berhalter said. "He’s been putting in, last week against D.C. [United] he was spectacular as well. We asked him to do some different things last week and this week he was great with his movement. I mean the goal that he scored was a great move and a great finish with his left foot.”
Kamara seemed to be happy with the club’s attacking during the contest Saturday night.
“The attack is good right now," Kamara said. We’re feeling good and we’re playing good. Everyone is clicking, and it’s good to see that. We’re creating chances every game, and we’re going to be in it."
The Black & Gold next host Orlando City on April 1 for a 4 p.m. ET kickoff at MAPFRE Stadium.