While Columbus Crew SC wasn’t able to bring home the trophy, there was no question following the MLS is Back Yournament that the Black & Gold should not be taken lightly in 2020. The Crew scored eight goals, and only allowed one, giving the club the best goal differential in the tournament at the time Columbus was eliminated.
The eight goals scored by the Crew ranged from serviceable to absolute works of art, and while the Black & Gold prepare for the restart of the MLS regular season, Massive Report looked back and ranked all eight goals scored by Columbus during the MLS is Back Tournament.
8. Gyasi Zardes’ penalty rebound (Minnesota United FC)
.@gyasinho with the rebound! pic.twitter.com/1NJWt6GU07— Columbus Crew SC (@ColumbusCrewSC) July 29, 2020
The Crew found itself trailing for the first time in the MLS is Back Tournament against Minnesota United in the first match of the Round of 16. So, the pressure was on for Gyasi Zardes when the Black & Gold were awarded a penalty kick with a chance to level the match in the 79th minute after a foul drawn by Derrick Etienne Jr.
Zardes approached the ball with a stutter step and fired his shot to the right of Loons’ goalkeeper Tyler Miller, who guessed correctly, dove right and made the save with relative ease. However, Zardes kept his composure and was able to tap in the rebound for his fourth goal of the tournament, leveling the match at 1-1.
This was not a spectacular goal, but technically they all count the same.
7. Youness Mokhtar’s deflection off a defender (Atlanta United)
1️⃣9️⃣ passes!— Columbus Crew SC (@ColumbusCrewSC) July 22, 2020
A true #Crew96 goal pic.twitter.com/PayD1S0rno
MLS is Back effectively acted as a spotlight for Youness Mokhtar to make his presence felt for the Black & Gold. After debuting late in 2019, Columbus fans hadn’t seen enough of Mokhtar on the pitch to know just what to make of the replacement for longtime fan-favorite Justin Meram.
Prior to his removal due to injury, Mokhtar was on a tear in the tournament. The midfielder was a threat through three matches, with one assist and two goals, the latter of which was the only goal and game winner against Atlanta United.
After a 19 pass lead-up, Mokhtar took a run at Atlanta’s goal, played a give-and-go with left back Milton Valenzuela, then the midfielder fired in a shot that deflected off of Five Stripes’ defender Miles Robinson and into the back of the net to give Columbus a 1-0 lead.
Like with Zardes’ penalty, deflections still are reflected the same on the scoreboard. And this had a very nice build up.
6. Gyasi Zardes scores thee first of many (FC Cincinnati)
TOO. EASY.@gyasinho makes it 2-0 in the first half!#Crew96 | #CINvCLB pic.twitter.com/U1Bjg1t5DO— Columbus Crew SC (@ColumbusCrewSC) July 12, 2020
The Black & Gold returned to the pitch for the first time in four months with an absolute banger of a performance in match one of the tournamemt, trouncing Ohio rivals FC Cincinnati 4-0.
Zardes found the back of the net twice during the first Hell is Real Derby of 2020, as the Cincinnati defense was simply dissected by the American international striker. The first goal came after a pass from Mokhtar to Zardes just outside of the 18-yard box. The forward showed fantastic composure in front of goal, taking his time (which Cincinnati defenders game him plenty of) and curling the ball around FC Cincy’s keeper for the early advantage. From there, the route was on...
5. Gyasi Zardes’ 70th regular season goal (New York Red Bulls)
slicin' n dicin'#Crew96 | #CLBvRBNY | 1-0 pic.twitter.com/iptNnBp52r— Columbus Crew SC (@ColumbusCrewSC) July 17, 2020
Through the first two matches of the MLS is Back Tournament, the Crew was making a habit of embarrassing its opponent’s defenses. In the 22nd minute against Eastern Conference foe, the New York Red Bulls, a throw-in to Pedro Santos lead to a quick attack on goal. Santos and Zardes immediately took parallel runs towards goal, Santos delivered a perfect pass to Zardes who had socially-distanced himself from the Red Bulls defense and scored his 70th MLS Regular Season goal.
4 Youness Mokhtar’s first of the season (FC Cincinnati)
YOUUUUUNESS!— Columbus Crew SC (@ColumbusCrewSC) July 12, 2020
Mokhtar's finish on some beautiful passing makes it 4-0 with 30 minutes left to play.#Crew96 | #CINvCLB pic.twitter.com/RdKPBHSnyF
Some great buildup play against FC Cincinnati’s underwhelming defense in match one saw playmaker Lucas Zelarayan cross the ball to left back Hector Jimenez, who easily found Mokhtar inside the penalty box. Mokhtar took a touch to get control and with his second touch, perfectly bent his shot into the corner of the net opposite Cincinnati’s Przemysław Tyton, leaving the goalkeeper without hope and scoring Columbus’ fourth goal of the night.
3. Lucas Zelarayan’s distance strike (New York Red Bulls)
.@Lucazelarayan31 WITH THE RIP pic.twitter.com/Sb2EBuhlVj— Columbus Crew SC (@ColumbusCrewSC) July 17, 2020
In the 47th minute against his former club, the New York Red Bulls, Etienne blocked an attempted clearance and raced down the pitch with all of New York’s defense behind him. After a slight hold up, the winger slowed down just enough for the Red Bull defense to compose itself. In need of support, Etienne quickly made a cutback pass as Zelarayan arrived from behind. And with picturesque form and composure, the club-record signee ripped the ball past New York’s David Jensen, scoring his third goal of the season, and securing the Crew’s 2-0 victory.
2. Lucas Zelerayan and Gyasi Zardes connect for the finish (FC Cincinnati)
.@gyasinho DOES NOT STOP! #Crew96 | #CINvCLB | 0-3 pic.twitter.com/sOmrP10SZz— Columbus Crew SC (@ColumbusCrewSC) July 12, 2020
Zelerayan has a knack for creating chances and Zardes has a knack for finishing those chances. This has created a dynamic duo for the Black & Gold, lovingly referred to as “ZZ Top.”
The two attacking players’ chemistry is undeniable and was on full display against FC Cincinnati in the 49th minute. From 30-plus yards out, Zelarayan whipped a cross just outside of the six-yard box and perfectly into the path of the Black & Gold’s striker. Zardes was able to tap the ball off of his left boot and into the back of the net as Columbus ran the score up against the team’s rivals down south.
1. Lucas Zelarayan’s free kick (FC Cincinnati)
ZELARAYAN! What a free kick. ⚡️ #CINvCLB pic.twitter.com/Wy4OPJp6aY— Major League Soccer (@MLS) July 12, 2020
The Crew’s first goal of MLS is Back was also undoubtedly the team’s best goal of the tournament. In the 27th minute of the match against Cincinnati, Zelarayan was fouled and subsequently delivered an absolute banger of a goal, perfectly curling the ball to the top right corner of the goal from the free kick, off the post and into the net.
The goal was a thing of beauty, awarded Goal of the Week and kicked off an entertaining eight goals in four matches for the Black & Gold during their run in the MLS is Back Tournament.
With MLS planning to commence the regular season later this month, you can look forward to many more goals from Columbus, the current leaders the Supporters’ Shield standings.