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Columbus Crew SC extend unbeaten run with win against D.C. United

Black & Gold cruise to stay undefeated in 2018

MLS: D.C. United at Columbus Crew SC Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

Columbus Crew SC head coach Gregg Berhalter on his team’s 3-1 victory.

Posted by Massive Report on Saturday, March 24, 2018

Columbus Crew SC brushed aside the challenging cold and blustery spring day at MAPFRE Stadium, the uncertainty of relocation, and the absence of Wil Trapp and Zack Steffen to hammer D.C. United 3-1 behind goals from Milton Valenzuela, Ricardo Clark, and Pedro Santos.

The visitors started the match well, as Crew SC appeared to miss the call presence of Trapp in the middle. United fired off three shots in the first 10 minutes, coming off of loose possession and poor turnovers from a jittery Columbus side. Despite the efforts, no attempts tested backup goalkeeper Jon Kempin.

Crew SC began to settle in prior to the open 10 minutes, but D.C. nearly grabbed an early lead in the 15th minute. An errant pass by Jonathan Mensah was intercepted by Paul Arriola. The winger slipped a quick pass to Darren Mattocks, who appeared clear on goal. His touch pushed the ball to close to Kempin, who quickly claimed the ball with the defense cleaning up the rebound.

Columbus finally found its attacking feet in the 20th minute. With the ball on the right side, Artur fed a pass into the penalty box and clipped a back heel to Cristian Martinez. The Panamanian winger cut back a cross and found Valenzuela pushing up from his left back position, who took a touch and finished to give the Black & Gold the lead.

The home side nearly grabbed a second in the 25th on a breakneck counterattack. Federico Higuain slipped a quick pass to Santos in space. He burned through the United midfield and found Artur. The Brazilian’s one-time shot forced an excellent save from David Ousted.

The visitors tied the game five minutes later. D.C. sent a hopeful ball forward that Lalas Abubakar miss-headed into the path of Luciano Acosta. He broke into the open space and cut the ball back to Yamil Asad whose clean strike curled into the far side of the net to tie the game at 1-1.

Crew SC would claw back into the lead in the 40th minute. Columbus earned a corner that Higuain bent into the six-yard box. It found the head of Ricardo Clark who popped a headed shot over the assembled defenders and past Ousted.

The next goal came quickly. Abubakar tackled the ball away from Acosta with a rugged challenge. He pinged the ball to Artur who quickly found Higuain. The Maestro then sent a surging pass to Martinez into space. The winger drove into the final third and then fed Santos for the easy finish for his first goal in Crew SC colors.

The next near Crew SC goal came in the 60th minute as Higuain fed Martinez at a close angle. The shot was parried out for a corner. Higuain sent in a bending ball that Gyasi Zardes rang off the crossbar. In the 64th minute, another Crew SC corner tested United, but Fredric Brilliant’s own goal attempt hit the bar.

With the two goal lead, the Black & Gold clamped down on the game. The visitors went nearly 40 minutes without a shot to close out the game. Crew SC, meanwhile, had eight shots in the second half for a strong finish.

50/50 man

Wearing the armband for the absent Trapp, Higuain further cemented his place in Crew SC lore on Clark’s 40th minute goal. It was his 50th assist in MLS. He joined the elite 50 goals, 50 assists club. The Maestro didn’t rest though, He moved to 51 assists two minutes later with a second assist on the goal from Santos.

Top of the league

It’s very early in a very long season, but Crew SC’s hot start has them tied for first in MLS with New York City FC at 3-0-1 and 10 points through four games. This is the strongest start since Black & Gold started 6-0-2 in 2010. It runs the team’s unbeaten streak to 14 games.

What’s next

Crew SC plays a home matinee with a 3 p.m. ET start against the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday, March 31st.