From the outside, you probably wouldn’t have recognized that Saturday’s 1-1 draw against the Chicago Fire was Waylon Francis’s first match back in Black & Gold.
“He’s been great, everything that we thought he’d be, and his transition’s been seamless,” said head coach Caleb Porter. “It’s almost like he never left. Guys know him well, most of the staff know him well, and just a great guy, real positive energy, and a quality player.”
Whether it was shutting down the opposing winger or getting into the offensive third on the delivery end of crosses, Black & Gold supporters got a refresher on what Francis brought to the fold during his first tenure in Columbus from 2014-2017.
As the starting left back, Francis threw himself into the mix on both ends of the pitch as he continues to catch up to the rest of the group, who have a couple weeks on him in terms of preseason acclimation and adjusting to Porter’s principles.
“I thought he was very good defensively in that channel,” Porter said on Francis’s performance against Chicago. “He did a nice job of shutting down the winger on that side and then getting forward, that box-to-box, both sides of the ball type of impact that we need from our outside backs. He really showed that and so it will only get better to as we continue to work.”
Columbus’ goal came in the 26th minute off a cross from Francis, which was impressive in itself, but the build-up and what it said about the team’s progression was the focal point for Porter.
“When you look at the goal, that is a, what I would say, is an excellent depiction of how we want to play,” Porter said. “It was 10 passes, back to front. We lost the ball, we immediately counter pressed, Pipa won the ball back, and then it was four passes and a goal. Early in the preseason we weren’t seeing those habits and behaviors as well as we saw in that game, so I’m really pleased with the way this group is looking to press a little higher.”
Columbus resumes action in the 2019 Carolina Challenge Cup today, Wednesday, Feb. 20 at 5 p.m. ET. The match will be streamed live at www.CharlestonBattery.com.
Once back in Columbus, the Black & Gold open the season on March 2 at MAPFRE Stadium against the defending Supporters’ Shield winners in the New York Red Bulls at 4:30 p.m. ET.