While the second game of the 2022 Major League Soccer season didn’t end the same way as the first for the Columbus Crew, there was still plenty to examine from the 3-3 draw against the San Jose Earthquakes. Week 2 saw the Black & Gold cough up a two-goal lead to settle for a point. The result may sting but it feels too early in the MLS season to make sweeping judgments.
This week, the Crew has the second home match of the year as Toronto FC comes to Lower.com Field. As we did after the first game, let’s take a look at the stock of Columbus.
BUY: Lucas Zelaryean for MVP
The major bright spot coming out of this past weekend is the continued stellar play from The Crew’s own No. 10. Zelaryean, with three goals and one assist so far, is picking up right where he left off last season.
Zelarayan has been awarded MLS Team of the Week in both opportunities so far this year and is tied for the lead in goals. While it may be too early to name him a serious contender for the MLS Golden Boot award, he does have the right to be in the early MVP conversation with his play.
What has led to this? So far, the rest of the Black & Gold attack has been as dangerous in front of the opponent’s penalty box as Zelarayan. This has created a significant amount of space for the Argentine to dominate.
.@S_MoreiraOff to @Lucazelarayan31— The Crew (@ColumbusCrew) March 5, 2022
JUST TOO GOOD.#Crew96 | #SJvCLB pic.twitter.com/jpJ29oFQOf
If players such as Derrick Etienne Jr., Yaw Yeboah, Miguel Berry and Gyasi Zardes can continue to be threats, opposing defenses will have to consider who to focus on. While the rest of the group are great in their own right, when compared, Zelarayan doesn’t need as much space to make the defense pay.
His first goal Saturday (above) was a perfect example of the opposing defense giving him a little too much room to work. Sprinkle in a light dusting of free kick goals and the MVP hype will only continue to grow. Get in early.
HOLD: Gyasi Zardes trade takes
The MLS season is fresh and pundits far and wide need something to talk about. Zardes always makes for good conversation. Given that the U.S. Men’s National Team forward hasn’t started either of the Crew’s first two games of the year, there is even more for people to discuss.
We refrained from any speculative Zardes trade talks last week. That said an outright trade in the first month of the season isn’t something general manager Tim Bezbatchenko is doing. It is fun to run the GAM/TAM numbers in your head, and the returns may be groundbreaking. However, the Black & Gold are in the business of competing for trophies and to do so, the team needs to score goals. Zardes does that as consistently as anyone else in MLS, without using an international spot.
For the time being, hold on to any transfer talk until at least the summer window. Debates can be had, especially from afar, but ultimately, head coach Caleb Porter and the front office prefer to keep the striker around.
BUY: Pedro Santos at left back
The returns of Santos’ new position are just coming in, but they do look promising. Santos had four interceptions on Saturday and hasn’t looked ruffled at all in his first 180 minutes patrolling the backline. His veteran status and more cerebral approach to defending allow him to become more accustomed to the role.
There will be some hiccups as the spring turns to summer and the team faces more adequate competition, but those complications arise from the system and the tactics utilized by Columbus. So far, a lot of the offseason speculation around Santos’ new role seems inconsequential.
SELL: The gray shorts
The gray jerseys from last year paired with gray shorts are the team’s road uniform this season, so this combination isn’t going anywhere. But that doesn’t mean it’s a good look for the Black & Gold.
There are plenty of people who like the gray jersey, but on the field Saturday, these kits looked very cookie-cutter MLS, especially when paired with the same color shorts instead of the one-year gold look from last season.
HOLD: Cold weather gear
Break out the gold beanies! Saturday will be freezing! Last weekend it felt like the winter was a thing of the past in Columbus and nothing but good times were on our horizon. This weekend, Crew fans are looking at 20 degrees at kick off.
Fans should dress accordingly for this mid-March game against Toronto FC.