In a battle between two of the top goal scorers in MLS NEXT Pro, it was Jacen Russell-Rowe and Columbus Crew 2 who came out on top on Sunday afternoon. In the second meeting between these two teams of the season, the Black & Gold beat Orlando City B 6-1 at Historic Crew Stadium. This marks three consecutive victories, including the last two by a combined 11-1 scoreline.
After making their first team debuts on Saturday in Columbus’ 1-1 draw with Charlotte FC, both Russell-Rowe and Mohamed Farsi were named in the Crew 2 starting 11, along with first-team winger Alexandru Matan.
The opening 15 minutes of the match were spent with the two teams feeling each other out, with neither ponying up good opportunities. The best chance of the opening period came for Orlando City off of a corner kick, but it was dealt with by Black & Gold goalkeeper Patrick Shulte.
Noah Fuson got the party started in the 16th minute when Matan passed the ball off the Columbus forward after good footwork to keep the ball and Fuson slotted the ball underneath Lions’ goalkeeper Javier Otero. And from there, the remainder of the first half was an offensive display for Crew 2.
It did not take long for the Black & Gold to double their lead, as Columbus was awarded a penalty kick after a whipped-in cross struck the outstretched arm of an Orlando City defender. Captain and midfielder Marco Micaletto stepped up and slotted the penalty into the bottom left corner of the goal for a 2-0 advantage.
Five minutes later, Russell-Rowe scored the first of two goals for him on the day, with a wonderful strike beating Otero to give Columbus a 3-0 lead.
Not even 10 minutes later, Russell-Rowe got his second goal of the match. After the initial Fuson shot hit the post, Russell-Rowe was able to put the ball into the net to give Crew 2 a comfortable 4-0 lead going into the half. This marked Russell-Rowe’s 11th goal of the season, the most in MLS NEXT Pro, and his second brace in the last two Crew 2 matches.
Columbus started out on the front foot to open the second half, with Fuson’s shot narrowly going past the post. Two minutes after Fuson’s attempt, the Black & Gold got their fifth goal of the day as defender Ryan Telfer headed home an Isaiah Parente corner kick.
The next 20 minutes saw chances from both teams, as Crew 2 started to take the foot off the gas. This would allow Orlando to grow into the game, albeit a little too late, and the visitors pulled a goal back.
Midfielder Issac Angking, fresh off of international duty with Puerto Rico, wrapped up the scoring with an 84th-minute goal to close out the match.
This win saw the Black & Gold move to the top atop the Eastern Con standings, and has jumped the Tacoma Defiance for the best record in the league at 10-2-0. With the six goals, Columbus also leads the league in total assists with 25 and Farsi leads the league in assists with six.
With the offensive firepower Crew 2 has, it makes the job of the goalkeeper and the defense easier.
“It's a blast. Sometimes I just get to sit back there and watch our front six go to work.” goalkeeper Patrick Schulte said following the match.
In the last five halves of Crew 2 soccer has seen the team score 15 goals and only conceded one. It is also the first time in team history that they had back-to-back five-goal victories.
Next up for the Black & Gold is a rematch against Rochester New York FC on Friday night. Rochester was the last team to beat the Black and Gold in a 4-0 victory at Historic Crew Stadium three weeks ago. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. ET on the road. All MLS Next Pro matches can be streamed live at mlsnextpro.com.