COLUMBUS — Columbus Crew SC went to battle with Atlanta United FC on Military Appreciation Night at MAPFRE Stadium in a match that ended 2-0 in favor of the MLS expansion-side thanks to a brace by Atlanta midfielder Hector Villalba.
United drew first blood in the 27th minute when Villalba chased down a goal kick on the Crew SC end and finished over a charging Zack Steffen. Atlanta goalkeeper Alec Kann was credited with the assist for supplying the long ball.
Villalba struck again in the 64th minute when a cross defected by Crew SC defenders ended up at his feet. Villalba sent the ball in with his left foot and evaded both Steffen and defender Jonathan Mensah to bring United’s lead to 2-0.
The match was seen by a sellout crowd in Columbus with 20,391 supporters packed MAPFRE Stadium, the largest crowd since September 26, 2015 in a match against the Portland Timbers.
Saturday’s game was the first of two in four days for Crew SC. The Black & Gold will play again on the road against Minnesota United on the night of July 4 in a quick turnaround on the holiday weekend.
Columbus (8-10-1, 25 points) out-passed and out-possessed Atlanta (8-7-3, 27 points) by margins of 449-337 and 57.5 percent to 42.5 percent, respectively.
Crew SC will travel next to Minnesota to face Minnesota United on July 4 at 7 p.m. ET in what will be their second match in four days. The Black & Gold will then return to MAPFRE Stadium on July 17 for a friendly against German Bundesliga-side and DFB Pokal-finalist Eintracht Frankfurt in what will be a 7:30 p.m. kickoff.
Columbus return to MLS action at home on July 22 at 7:30 p.m. ET against the Philadelphia Union.
Venue: MAPFRE Stadium (Columbus, Ohio)
Referee: Hilario Grajeda
Assistants: Corey Rockwell, Kyle Longville
Fourth Official: Younes Marrakchi
27’ – ATL – Hector Villalba (Alec Kann)
64’ – ATL – Hector Villalba
CLB – Justin Meram (Caution) 29’
ATL – Alec Kann (Caution) 84’
Columbus Crew SC: Zack Steffen; Harrison Afful, Josh Williams, Jonathan Mensah (Nicolai Naess 77’), Jukka Raitala; Wil Trapp ©, Artur; Ethan Finlay (Kekuta Manneh 61’), Federico Higuain, Justin Meram (Adam Jahn 68’); Ola Kamara
Substitutes not used: Brad Stuver, Hector Jimenez, Alex Crognale, Waylon Francis
Atlanta United FC: Alec Kann; Anton Walkes, Michael Parkhurst ©, Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, Greg Garza; Jeff Larentowicz, Carlos Carmona; Hector Villalba (Julian Gressel 66’), Miguel Almiron, Yamil Asad; Josef Martinez (Brandon Vazquez 82’)
Substitutes not used: Alexander Tambakis, Michael Ambrose, Kevin Kratz, Chris McCann, Tyrone Mears
FINLAY 100 STARTS
Crew SC midfielder Ethan Finlay made his 100th start as a member of the Black & Gold during Saturday night’s match. The veteran, a member of the Columbus 30-30 club for goals and assists, recorded a successful cross, nine successful passes on Atlanta’s half and won a tackle before exiting in the 61st minute.
ABU STARTS AGAINST USMNT
Crew SC midfielder Mohammed Abu was away on International Duty for his home country of Ghana during the match Saturday. Abu started and played the first 30 minutes for the Black Stars against the United States Men’s National Team in a friendly in East Hartford, Conn. The United States won the match by a score of 2-1.
The Crew SC faithful might have recognized a familiar face on the pitch at MAPFRE Stadium during the match. Former Crew SC captain and defender Michael Parkhurst now leads the United defense. Parkhurst made 100 starts as a member of the Black & Gold during his time in Columbus.