The Columbus Crew earned a satisfying three points on Saturday with the team’s 2 - 1 come from behind victory against Toronto FC. The win puts the Crew atop of the Major League Soccer standings, as the Black & Gold are tied with LAFC in points but have the edge in goals scored.
The performance Saturday was reassuring to the Crew faithful given the upsetting result on the road against the San Jose Earthquakes the week prior. Columbus showed the team could close out a game when needed, a welcome development for sure.
Let’s dive into which players shined the brightest out at Lower.com Field against TFC.
Derrick Etienne Jr
The 25 year old from New Jersey kept up his impressive early-season form on Saturday. The attack-minded winger had seemingly tied the game in the 31st minute before his goal was ruled offsides. A year ago such a setback could have doomed the entire attack. Instead, Etienne kept the throttle down and pushed the offense forward. Before halftime, he headed a Lucas Zelareyan cross on net that was saved by Toronto keeper Alex Bono.
By the second half, the rest of the offense caught up to Etienne’s pace. In the 56th minute, he caught the end of a Steven Moreria cross and laid it off to a charging Lucas Zelarayán. Nine minutes later Etienne finished a headed pass from Johnathan Mensah with an impressive half-volley strike to seal the victory for the Crew.
Etienne’s work rate and positioning have invigorated the Crew’s attack from the run of play so far this season, as he now has two goals and two assists — already tied for the second-most in a season in his career — three games into the year. If his post-match comments were any indication of his motivation levels, Etienne won’t be giving up the left wing spot any time soon.
Zelarayán isn’t just hot, he’s on fire. The star attacking midfielder has been earning every bit of his salary so far in the 2022 season. The second half equalizer was his fourth goal of the season and 14th goal from outside the penalty box since he came to Columbus in 2020.
Dating back to the fall of 2021, Zelarayán has been on an absolute tear. He has scored in each of the last six Crew games, a streak only bested by Black & Gold legend Stern John in the early days of the club. The Argentine currently leads MLS in goals and total attacking assist with 12.
The next three opponents may present a more difficult matchup for the Crew, but if the team’s No. 10 can keep up this pace, Columbus will have a puncher's chance of winning in any match. All it takes is one rip from outside the 18-yard box to swing the game’s momentum in the Black & Gold’s favor
Before Etienne crashed into the Toronto penalty area or Zelarayán tore the TFC defense to shreds, Room put his body on the line to keep the Crew in the match. TFC came out in a different formation than head coach Caleb Porter and his staff anticipated. This change of tactics befuddled Columbus for the opening half an hour. During that time, the Reds pushed a goal across the line after a corner, a growing concern to those who are passionate about set piece defending.
Going a goal down wasn’t the immediate wake up call some would think, as Room came up big in the 27th minute to keep Toronto from taking a two-goal lead.
The goalkeeper made five saves in total on Saturday and was instrumental in the squad's effort to close out a much-needed win at home in front of frigid but passionate group supporters.
How did you think the Columbus’ players performed in the win. Was there a player that we missed who deserved recognition from Saturday? Let us know in the comment section below.