Saturday, the Columbus Crew started the team’s 2022 MLS regular season in dynamic fashion with a 4-0 victory against a 2021 Western Conference playoff team the Vancouver Whitecaps. In front of Black & Gold supporters, the Crew put two past the visitors before Vancouver went down a man following a red card and gave up two more.
On Monday, Columbus added another victory, albeit a smaller one. Midfielder Lucas Zelarayán was the lone Black & Gold player named the MLS Team of the Week.
In the match against the Whitecaps, Zelarayán helped bookend the four goals. The Armenian National Team member assisted forward Miguel Berry’s opening goal in the eighth minute. Zelarayán sent a cross on to the chest of Berry, who was standing on the edge of the penalty area. Berry quickly turned and shot towards goal, hitting a Vancouver defender along the way for a deflected goal.
With the Crew already up three goals, Zelarayán added the fourth for his first finish of 2022. After receiving a pass inside the 18-yard-box, Zelarayán dribbled past three Whitecaps defenders and slotted his shot home as he fell to the pitch.
Joining Zelarayán on the first Team of the Week of the year are former MLS Most Valuable Players in Atlanta United forward Josef Martínez, LAFC forward Carlos Vela and New England Revolution midfielder Carles Gil. Anchoring the team of the week is goalkeeper Bill Hamid from rival Eastern Conference side D.C. United.
Statistically, Zelarayán’s goal and assist made him a shoo-in for MLS Team of the Week, but there were arguments around the field for other Crew players' names to be included. Wingers Derrick Etienne Jr. and Yaw Yeboah tormented the Vancouver defense, while fullback Pedro Santos also had a standout performance in his play with multiple interceptions on defense and connections with teammates across the pitch.
The MLS Team of the Week honor isn’t a new award for the Black & Gold’s No. 10. Since coming to the league in 2020, Zelarayán has been on the Team of the Week 12 times. In 2020, Zelarayán was named to the bench of the MLS Team of the Week in the Crew’s season opener, a 1-0 victory against New York City FC that also coincidentally featured the visiting team going down to 10 men.
In three season openers, Zelarayán’s been named to the first edition of the weekly award twice. Zelarayán also added MLS Cup MVP and MLS Newcomer of the Year to his list of MLS accolades.
In 2021, Zelarayán was named to the MLS Team of the Week six times, although it took him until week four for the first time in the year. With the addition of Yeboah, and a hopefully healthy midfield and defense for the Crew, Zelarayán and his teammates have the ability to find more space and contribute stronger than the 2021 season that saw Columbus on the outside of the 2021 MLS Cup playoffs.