It’s becoming rather repetitive watching Columbus Crew SC win and doing so with such ease. The team’s most recent victory, a 2-0 win against Nashville SC on Saturday night, was further evidence that the Black & Gold are certainly one of the teams to beat in this year’s unusual installment of Major League Soccer.
While the goals came in the second half, it was nothing short of a deserved result for a team that’s stumbled on a three-point treasure trove in the 2020 season. There was plenty we learned as Columbus continued to dominate everything MLS throws in its path.
Here are our takeaways from the match:
The race for the Supporters’ Shield is the Crew’s to lose
The Crew is five points clear and has an undetermined number of games to play. With the utter dominance that the Black & Gold have displayed in the 2020 season, it’s now official if it wasn’t before that the Supporters’ Shield trophy is within touching distance and is Columbus’ to lose.
Unbeaten in 11 out of the first 12 games this season, it’s been a legit campaign for Caleb Porter’s Black & Gold. However, it doesn’t get easier moving forward as the remainder of MLS Phase Two rounds out with the Crew facing Minnesota United at home on Wednesday, followed by a trip to Connecticut next Sunday to face long-time rival Toronto FC, who sit in third place in the race for the Supporters’ Shield.
If Columbus can take away a minimum of four points in its next two matchups, the team will head into the rest of Phase Two as solid favorites to reclaim the last major trophy won all the way back in the 2009 season.
The defense is a wall, literally
While the wins aren’t coming by a bevy of goals, they are quality defensive efforts nonetheless. Columbus is the second team in MLS history to keep a clean sheet in its first five home matches of a season, in addition to four other shutouts. Needless to say, it’s been a group effort for the guys on defense and the team’s success has started at the back for the Black & Gold.
With only four goals conceded in the first 12 matches, it’s the second-best pace in MLS history through 12 games behind only the 2010 LA Galaxy who conceded three goals in 12 matches and went on to concede the fourth in its 13th match. For now, Columbus is on the doorstep of the best defensive records in league history.
If a Supporters’ Shield trophy and potentially more are up for grabs, one may be able to make the case that defense wins silverware.
Injuries aren’t a big deal... for now
It was Saturday’s lineup that released pre-match which exempted star Black & Gold midfielder Darlington Nagbe and raised some eyebrows. It painted a picture that not everything may be roses and rainbows for the player.
Massive Report learned that Nagbe recently had his knee scoped and the Cleveland native to miss “two to three weeks.” It resulted from a meniscus injury after colliding knees with a Philadelphia Union player during the teams’ most recent match.
Attacking midfielder Lucas Zelarayan was available for the Black & Gold off the bench while dealing with a Grade 1 MCL issue of his own. He came on to play 20 minutes to help see out a victory for the Crew against Nashville.
With the absences of the two players at the start, it was Pedro Santos who got the nod at Zelarayan’s No. 10 position who showcased his ability last season at the position. Recent acquisition, Fatai Alashe, has done a solid job in filling in for a missing Nagbe at his No. 6 position alongside Artur. It’s an embarrassment of riches to have the depth to handle injuries to two of the best players, not only on the team but in the league in 2020.
The injury bug plagued the Black & Gold in 2019, albeit going deeper than just a couple of names. However, hitting the team’s two best players doesn’t bode well going into the most crucial point of the season.