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What We Learned: Crew vs. Philadelphia Union

These are the biggest takeaways from the Black & Gold’s sixth win of the season.

MLS: Philadelphia Union at Columbus Crew SC Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

Columbus Crew SC returned to winning ways in the 2020 Major League Soccer season as the Black & Gold secured a 1-0 win against the Philadelphia Union at MAPFRE Stadium on Wednesday. The result followed arguably the team’s worst performances of the year, which led to a road loss to New York City FC and a scoreless draw with FC Cincinnati.

The three points and the end of a two-match scorless draught were certainly the headliners of the night, but here are other points Massive Report wants to highlight:

Zelarayan is key to the Crew’s offense

It wasn’t a coincidence that the only two matches the Crew went without finding the back of the net were when Lucas Zelarayan was out injured and when he was trying to get his form back after he returned.

As head coach Caleb Porter admitted, the Argentinean is crucial in the Black & Gold offense and that was evident against the Union as he has the most key passes (3) and shots on target (2) in the entire team and more touches (68) than any other offensive player.

Zelarayan is absolutely central in everything the Crew does on the attacking side of the field and he’s the only player with the ability to be dangerous in multiple ways, as he’s a treat in transition, when dribbling, finishing from long range, passing or on set pieces.

It’s Williams’ job to lose now

The Crew has the best defense in the league with only two goals conceded and added another clean sheet, its seventh in nine matches, and the game against Philadelphia solidified Josh Williams as a starter in the team.

The 32-year-old center back played a solid match and had the most clearances on the entire team with five. He was also good when building out of the back, connecting over 90 percent of his pass attempts.

Williams returned to the team after Aboubacar Keita’s passing mistake costed the Black & Gold the match against New York City and he responded well to the challenge, taking advantage of the opportunity to return to the starting lineup. It’s his job to lose now.

Late, few substitutions for Porter

It took Porter 70 minutes to make the first substitution in the game, bringing winger Derrick Etienne Jr. in to replace Youness Mokhtar. Between then and the final whistle, he made just another couple of changes, leaving two potential subs unused.

While there’s a tendency to make use of all five substitutions, especially with MLS trying to complete the season after a long break and scheduling two matches every week, Porter did well in just making the subs he felt he needed to.

The Crew was playing well and if players were in good physical shape, there was no reason to make changes just for the sake of it. It also gave his front four some valuable minutes together to rebuild chemistry lost while players were out injured.

Columbus is back at the top

The three points won against the Union have placed the Black & Gold back at the top of the Supporters’ Shield standings with 20 points. The Crew benefited from Toronto FC’s 1-0 loss to the Montreal Impact on Tuesday to regain the position.

Columbus will have a great chance to solidify its top spot on Sunday when the team returns to MAPFRE Stadium to host in-state rivals FC Cincinnati for the second time in just over a week.