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What We Learned: Crew at FC Cincinnati

Here are our biggest takes on the Black & Gold’s win in the Hell Is Real match.

MLS: Columbus Crew SC at FC Cincinnati Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Columbus Crew SC pulled the first victory of the Hell is Real match in Major League Soccer and did it in great fashion with a 3-1 road win against FC Cincinnati. Here are some conclusions from the game:

Zardes can still score

The last two weeks weren’t great for Gyasi Zardes. The Designated Player striker scored from a penalty kick in the 2-2 tie with FC Cincinnati but the memory that stuck with Crew fans was the one of him skying a potential game-winner at the end of the match. Against Toronto FC, he not only didn’t find the back of the net but also missed two point-blank opportunities, which generated huge criticism and questions from fans on social media.

It seems that head coach Caleb Porter’s decision to rest him against New York City FC on Wednesday was spot on as a reinvigorated Zardes performed at his absolute best at Nippert Stadium. He scored twice, made a great play on controlling a long pass from Eloy Room on his first goal and helped on defense.

Diaz can be a difference-maker

Luis Diaz absolutely destroyed Andrew Gutman during the 54 minutes he was on the field. The Costa Rican used his pace and his dribbling ability to win pretty much every duel he had with the American fullback and left for halftime with a goal and an assist to his name.

One thing that sets Diaz apart from the prototypical Central American winger is that he knows exactly when and where to cross the ball, allowing his target to be onside and feeding him on just the perfect spot to finish, as it was the case in Crew’s first goal. More of this from Diaz should led to more goals and, ideally, more wins.

It really felt like a rivalry

For whatever reason it was, this match seemed a lot more like a rivalry than the one at MAPFRE Stadium two weeks ago. In the stands, a good contingent of traveling Crew fans made sure they were heard while local supporters didn’t have much to cheer for.

On the field, it was obvious that there was tension everywhere as the match ended with a whopping nine yellow cards and there were some heated discussions, including one between Artur and Roland Lamah after a foul and a big one that started with Jonathan Mensah and Victor Ulloa after Cincinnati’s goal and involved a handful of players from both sides.