Columbus Crew SC qualified for the knockout stages of the MLS is Back Tournament with a solid 2-0 win against the New York Red Bulls on Thursday night. While it got a little hairy towards the end, there was plenty for Black & Gold supporters to celebrate as the Crew continued to fire on all cylinders.
Once again, Columbus featured in the nightcap match, but fans seemed slightly more awake for this one. They were pumped up and ready to watch their team.
Forward Gyasi Zardes opened the scoring in the 20th minute thanks to a perfect pass from winger Pedro Santos, who returned after not being in the squad in the last match. This was Zardes’ third goal of the tournament and fans were excited by both the goal and the partnership between Zardes and Santos.
Zardes goes all the way back on defense, then zooms up the center of the pitch on the break.— Keith Naas (@knaas) July 17, 2020
What a player. #Crew96.
Pedro Pedro nice work dude keep it up. Muito boa #Crew96— Gringa con Gatos y Máscaras y #BLM (@gringacongatos) July 17, 2020
In what many saw as a surprise, Homegrown midfielder Sebastian Berhalter was given his first start for the club. He performed admirably and recorded the most touches out of any player on the field in the first half. This was made even more special as Sebastian’s father, former Crew head coach and United State Men’s National Team manager Gregg Berhalter, was there to watch the game.
Sebastian really surprised me tonight. (Er, last night, I guess.) I was impressed. #crew96— Toddrick33 (@Toddrick33) July 17, 2020
Gregggg Berhalter watching the game alone in a folder chair is a mood— GCGBAG (@gcgbag96) July 17, 2020
The real key to breaking down New York’s trademark press in this game was one Darlington Nagbe. Fans were quick to heap praise on the midfielder for his outstanding performance.
Lucas Zelarayan is the most talented/highest level player whatever you want to call it that we’ve ever had. Because they happened in the same offseason it kinda goes un talked about how Nagbe is probably 2nd on that same list. Absolutely monumental signing #Crew96— Cameron (@CAMcKay97) July 17, 2020
Nagbe is a beast in the midfield. Such a great move this offseason to bring him in. So good on the ball and strong defender. #Crew96— Jordyn Lewis (@jordynlewis11) July 17, 2020
A few minutes into the second half, playmaker Lucas Zelarayan scored from outside the penalty box off of a pass from Derrick Etienne. Fans are confident that Zelarayan is proving himself to be the real deal.
The end of the game almost got out of hand as the Crew ran out of substitutes and players started going down, most notably goalkeeper Eloy Room. While he ultimately toughed out the nine-plus minutes of added time, fans started speculating who might have to become the emergency keeper.
Don't come at Josh Williams unless you want the thunder pic.twitter.com/4DVygIXVL4— The StaltDawg (@Stalter24) July 17, 2020
As the game drew to a close, fans also made sure to praise club captain Jonathan Mensah for his stellar performance in defense.
Jonathan Mensah is the best defender in MLS. #Crew96— Christian Pereira (@CrewSoccer96) July 17, 2020
With this win, Columbus is the third team to reach the knockout stages of the tournament, with a game to spare. And so, the Crew hype train continues on.
I'm enjoying this thing where #Crew96 are fun to watch & really good. Great game from the whole team.— Massive317 (@Massive317) July 17, 2020
On that note, I leave you with two gifts. First, this most cursed of images.
And finally, as you celebrate the Crew’s victory, consider celebrating one of the club’s greatest supporters on his 100th birthday. Stay Massive.