Things went from bad to worse for the Columbus Crew in Wednesday night’s game against the New York Red Bulls. The Black & Gold suffered a fifth consecutive defeat. The 1-0 loss secured Columbus’ first five-game losing streak in more than two years. To make matters worse, one of the team’s key players left the match early with an injury.
Striker Gyasi Zardes was clean through on goal in the 42nd minute after a ball sent over the top by center back Aboubacar Keita from the defensive half. The Crew forward was one-on-one with Red Bulls’ goalkeeper Carlos Coronel and as he shot it right at New York’s shot-stopper, Zardes went down with an apparent hamstring injury.
He was looked at for the remainder of normal time in the first half and was substituted as stoppage time began. Head coach Caleb Porter informed the media after the match that it seems that Zardes suffered a “soft tissue injury,” but was yet to speak with the trainers. It’s likely that Zardes’ injury status will be known before Saturday’s match against the Seattle Sounders.
Zardes has played 14 games in the 2021 season with four goals scored during the campaign. In the spring, he played through a sprained shoulder and finally found the back of the net for his first MLS goal of the season on May 29 against Toronto FC. Zardes then scored a brace in the final match at historic Crew Stadium on June 19 in a 2-0 win against the Chicago Fire.
His last goal for the Black & Gold was on July 3 in the inaugural match at Lower.com Field against the New England Revolution, a match that ended in a 2-2 draw for Columbus. Right after that match, Zardes was called up to the United States Men’s National Team for the CONCACAF Gold Cup tournament for all of July. He scored two goals and helped lead the U.S. to the Gold Cup title with a culminating 1-0 win over Mexico in Las Vegas.
Since his return from winning the Gold Cup, Zardes hasn’t scored and the Crew has failed to win. The only thing the club has added is more injuries. The likes of Marlon Hairston, Perry Kitchen and Luis Diaz have all picked up injuries since Zardes returned. Now, Zardes himself could be on the injury list for an extended period of time.
If the Crew’s top striker is out, the likes of Bradley Wright-Phillips and Erik Hurtado would likely get more opportunities up top to start for Columbus. Neither has scored in MLS play this season with the only other striker to score for the Crew this season being youngster Miguel Berry. Berry has played just 77 minutes since his clutch equalizer against FC Cincinnati on July 9.
The Black & Gold are two losses shy of tying the MLS single-season record for a defending champion as they enter a massive home stand in late August. The next match is an MLS Cup Final rematch against the Seattle Sounders on Saturday afternoon followed by the first home Hell is Real Derby match against FC Cincinnati on Aug. 27.