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Columbus Crew SC defend Carolina Challenge Cup in 2-0 win over Minnesota United

Consecutive Crew SC goals six minutes apart lift the Black & Gold over the Loons.

Devin Lamoreaux

Columbus Crew SC completed back-to-back crowns in the Carolina Challenge Cup with a 2-0 win against Minnesota United on Saturday night.

The Black & Gold came into the fixture undefeated in the tournament with a 3-1 victory over Atlanta United and a 2-1 victory over the host Charleston Battery.

Head coach Gregg Berhalter deployed a familiar lineup to begin the match.

Both teams began the match feeling one another out. Crew SC gained a noticeable edge at the half hour mark when the team began to press the attack and got the ball out wide to Harrison Afful.

The pressure from the Ghanian lead to a Crew SC breakthrough in the 31st minute as Federico Higuain collected a deflected cross from Afful and volleyed the ball past Minnesota goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth to take a 1-0 lead.

Just six minutes later, Crew SC forward Gyasi Zardes continued his tremendous goal-scoring clip, as his finished a cross from an tough angle and gave the Black & Gold a 2-0 lead heading into the half.

Columbus began the second half without making any substitutions as the team looked to gain match fitness for the opener. Zardes looked to continue the momentum he established in the first half, attempting to score and put the game away with a third Crew SC goal early on in the half. However, the 26 year old couldn’t connect on his opportunities.

The Crew SC backline held tough in this match with impressive performances from all four members. Lalas Abubakar and Jonathan Mensah held the Minnesota attack scoreless, while Afful and left back Milton Valenzuela thrived setting up the Black & Gold attack with various scoring opportunities.

With the win, Columbus took home its second straight Carolina Challenge Cup. The Black & Gold now shift its focus to the Major League Soccer season opener against Toronto FC next Saturday at 1pm.