After a week off from action, the Columbus Crew racked up another individual award in Major League Soccer. On Wednesday, MLS named midfielder Lucas Zelarayán its Player of the Month for March. It’s the first Player of the Month award for a Crew player since May 2018 when former goalkeeper Zack Steffen gave up zero goals in five matches to take home the award. Zelarayán’s is equally warranted.
Coming off 2021, where Zelarayán ended the season with five goals and two assists in the last five matches, the midfielder hasn’t lost his touch to start this year. In four matches this season, the Armenian National Team player has four goals and two assists to his name in MLS play.
Zelarayán’s six goals created in the young season are more goals responsible for than 16 MLS teams have scored. That’s good for more than half of the league.
It’s not only the sheer total of goals created. either, but the diversity of how these finishes are being scored. Of Zelarayán’s four goals, three came from the run of play, one on a free kick and three of the four came from outside of the penalty area.
Zelarayán assisted on the first goal of the season for the Black & Gold in a 4-0 win against the Vancouver Whitecaps, passing to forward Miguel Berry for the opener. Zelarayán bookended the goals on the day, scoring Columbus’ fourth in the 87th minute with a nice move inside the 18-yard box to create space for the finish.
On the Crew’s trip to face the San Jose Earthquakes the following week, Zelarayán scored the first goal from outside the 18-yard box to tie the match at 1-1. The midfielder added a second in the game from a free kick, putting Columbus up 3-1 before San Jose scored two late goals, taking two points from the Crew.
In the Black & Gold’s return to Lower.com Field in Week 3, Zelarayán again tied a game where Columbus was down. This time, Zelarayán rushed towards a ball that bounced out of the penalty area and struck a line drive shot through the defense and past the Toronto FC keeper. Later in the match, Zelarayán was awarded a secondary assist from a free kick. The in-swinging ball found the head of captain and center back Jonathan Mensah who headed the ball to an open Derrick Etienne Jr. for the match-winning goal in a 2-1 victory.
For Zelarayán’s work in the first three matches, he was named to the MLS Team of the Week each week, the only player to do so.
In the Black & Gold’s fourth match, Zelarayán didn’t register a goal or an assist but sustained a minor knee injury late in the match. Columbus’ star midfielder is day-to-day as the Crew prepares for a matchup against Nashville SC on Saturday.
If Zelarayán can’t go for the Crew, head coach Caleb Porter has big shoes to fill with the league’s best player through the opening month not in the lineup against a 2021 MLS Cup playoff side.