The Columbus Crew was utterly dominant in a 4-0 victory against Inter Miami at Lower.com Field to keep its MLS Cup playoff hopes afloat. The win is the biggest this season for the Black & Gold thanks to a Gyasi Zardes brace and three-goal contributions for Pedro Santos (one goal, two assists). The Crew extend its lead above Miami in the table and extend its home winning streak to five straight.
Head coach Caleb Porter’s lineup saw the return of goalkeeper Eloy Room who had missed the last month due to injury. The team had another change with Darlington Nagbe wearing the captain’s armband with Jonathan Mensah out due to health and safety protocols. Winger Luis Diaz was a late scratch as well from health and safety protocols per a Crew spokesperson.
The game got off to a lively start with the Crew creating a chance after just 40 seconds. Marlon Hairston had a wide-open header in the box that he hit over the bar to begin the match. Three minutes later, Inter Miami went down the field and a Robbie Robinson cross was parried away by Eloy Room. The ball fell right to Gonzalo Higuain just three years away whose shot was saved by Room in a double save play.
The 29th minute had a rare and utterly bizarre sequence as Vito Wormgoor attempted a pass back that had little power. Miami attacker Robbie Robinson was through on goal with a breakaway but lost his footing before he could get a shot off.
The Crew was efficient with its possession in the first half with plenty of active chance creation in the final third. Columbus broke the deadlock in the 40th minute after keeping possession off a corner kick. Pedro Santos got the ball just outside the box and sent a swerving cross into the box. Gyasi Zardes went up for the header with the ball hitting off his shoulder and going into the net for his eighth goal of the MLS season.
The Black & Gold doubled its lead four minutes later with Pedro Santos scoring his first open play goal of 2021. Nagbe snatches the ball from Higuain off a Miami throw-in to start an attack near the box. He found a wide-open Santos in the box and the Portuguese winger finesse it into the net.
Columbus kept its aggressive mentality in the second half. The defense was going for balls in open spaces to begin counterattacks and helping push towards a third goal. They got that third goal in the 65th minute as Santos chased down a long ball on the wing to keep it in play. He sent a cross high in the box where Zardes headed it off the field and into the net for his brace and Santos’ second assist.
The Nordecke led chants of “Pipa!” when former Crew attacker Federico Higuain entered the game in the 68th minute in his first game back in Columbus. Higuain played eight seasons for the Black & Gold and scored 55 goals in MLS play.
The Crew almost got a fourth in the 77th minute. Alexandru Matan crossed from a free-kick and the ball fell to Josh Williams at the back post. Williams half-volleyed it into the post. The fourth goal occurred a few minutes later with Miguel Berry’s cross hitting over Miami defender Leandro Gonzalez Pirez to force an own goal. It was the fifth own goal received this season for the Black & Gold to tie the MLS single-season record for a team.
Splendid first half
The Black & Gold had its best first half at Lower.com Field against Inter Miami. The offense looked fluid and efficient with possession to execute a good start to the match. The Crew got two first-half goals for the first time at its new home stadium and broke a four-month-long streak without two first-half goals.
That momentum continued in the second half with a strong press and continuing aggression on the offensive end. The performance was more than enough to hand Inter Miami its sixth straight defeat.
Pedro Santos sparkles in attack
Head coach Caleb Porter said before this match he was looking for more goal production from his wingers. Pedro Santos answered that call and more with a goal and two assists for his best game offensively of the 2021 season.
The Portuguese utility player entered the game with no open play goals and broke that duck with a composed left-footed shot in the first half. The goal was accompanied by two great assists to Zardes to spark the Crew’s biggest win of the season. This could spark another run of production for Santos on offense like we saw last season in the pursuit of MLS Cup.
The Black & Gold is now up to 37 points and are five points clear of Inter Miami. At the time of the final whistle, Columbus remained in 10th place but other results could push them closer to playoff positioning.
The Crew will continue its busy stretch with a trip to Nashville on Wednesday to face second-place Nashville SC at Nissan Stadium.