So far in 2022, the Columbus Crew has scored nine goals, had multi-goal matches in each of the team’s first three games and the offense is firing at a clip not seen in Crew history. Against Toronto FC, the Black & Gold put two strikes past Alex Bono with an amazing line drive goal by Lucas Zelarayan and winger Derrick Etienne Jr. adding his second of the season for the game winner.
Defensively, Columbus has given up four goals in three matches, but none in the run of play. Outside of four set pieces, the newly formed duo of captain Jonathan Mensah and newcomer Milos Degenek look like a top pairing in the league. For all the justifiable excitement about the center back pairing, there was one moment that made Saturday’s 2-1 victory possible for the Crew: the play of goalkeeper Eloy Room.
Entering Saturday, Room faced just three shots on goal on the young season. None came in the 4-0 season opener against the Vancouver Whitecaps. A week later versus the San Jose Earthquakes, there was only one shot on goal from the run of play, an ambitious effort outside of the penalty box that didn’t challenge the Curacao international goalkeeper. The three Quakes goals came from a penalty kick and two poorly defended set pieces.
With all the talk about the cold weather conditions against Toronto, supporters could expect the Black & Gold goalkeeper to be cold himself without much in terms of run of play shots at Room’s net.
“He’s very steady,” head coach Caleb Porter said of Room after the 2-1 win. “0ur team’s a good defensive team, we don’t give up a ton. We’re not a team that just gets run over and gives up a ton of shots, so he has to be ready.”
And ready he was. In the 27th minute, with Columbus down one, Toronto took advantage of a Crew defense that didn’t read a move by midfielder Alejandro Pozuelo. TFC’s No. 10 made an onside run close to goal and took a shot that a diving Room cleared away with his legs.
Room was called on again early in the second half with the home team still playing catch-up. In the 49th minute, the Reds injury substitute Ifunanyachi Achara made an individual effort on goal. With Mensah blocking Room’s sightline, Achara sent in a low attempt from the right side of the penalty area to the left corner of goal. At the last second, Room dove to his right, getting his fingertips to the chance, giving Toronto a corner kick instead of a two-goal lead.
From there, the Crew took over, scoring the final two goals of the match and taking home three more points, good for seven in the first three games. Those points wouldn’t have happened without Room’s first big match of the season.
“We talked about that,” Porter explained about what he said to the team at halftime. “We need a clean sheet in the second half. We knew we had the quality to score goals and very pleased with that, hope you guys are as well.”
From hearing the supporter shouts of “Roooooom” from the Nordecke throughout the match, they were definitely pleased with the goalkeeper’s performance. Room ended the day with five saves, four more than he had in the first two matches of the season combined.
The cold didn’t bother Room after all.