If it wasn’t already a given that Columbus Crew SC had the match of matches in the first round of the MLS is Back Tournament, Major League Soccer’s Team of the Week selections put a stamp on it.
The Black & Gold saw three players, forward Gyasi Zardes, playmaker Lucas Zelarayan and midfielder Darlington Nagbe all selected to the best eleven players from the first round of tournament action. It was the most selections from a Crew side since Week 4 of the 2017 MLS season when Federico Higuain, Artur and Harrison Afful were named to the Team of the Week after a thrilling 3-2 victory against a Portland Timbers side then-coached by Caleb Porter.
Speaking of Porter, the Black & Gold boss was also selected as the league’s coach of the week for the tournament’s first round after the Black & Gold’s resounding 4-0 victory against rival FC Cincinnati. It was his second such award as manager of the Crew, the first coming following a 2-0 road victory against the New England Revolution during Week 2 of the 2019 MLS season.
Zardes’ effort during Saturday’s match saw him notch his second and third goals of the season. In addition, Zelarayan got his name on the scoresheet after a stellar free kick in the first half to open the scoring for the Black & Gold and added an assist for Zardes’ second goal. Nagbe was an unsung hero for Columbus, registering a 97 percent pass accuracy, the highest on the team for players with a minimum of 10 touches.
Notably absent from the Team of the Week was winger Youness Mokhtar, who shined for the Black & Gold and almost outperformed Revolution midfielder Gustavo Bou in most metrics. Mokhtar and Bou both scored for their respective teams and contributed two key passes, but Mohktar added an assist, had a better pass accuracy (82.5 percent vs. 71 percent), shot accuracy (50 percent vs. 37.5 percent) and won more aerial duels (3 vs. 0). Nonetheless, Round 1 was dominated by the Black & Gold and rightfully so.
Porter and company are surely looking to build on the momentum from the first round of the tournament and look to take the Black & Gold one step closer to the knockout round. Columbus takes on long-time Eastern Conference rival New York Red Bulls on Thursday in Orlando, Florida who are level on points in Group E with three. Kickoff is scheduled at 10:30 p.m. ET.