Columbus, Ohio (May 12, 2018) — Columbus Crew SC‘s best performance of the season extended their current red-hot form as well as that of its center forward.
The Black and Gold routed the Chicago Fire by a score of 3-0 on Saturday night. It extends the club’s current unbeaten streak to five games, its longest such stretch since the end of last year. It included the second two-goal game of the season from Gyasi Zardes which, for the time being, put him alone at the top of the MLS goal-scoring table.
Gyasi Zardes Nabs Brace as Columbus Crew SC Routs Chicago Fire 3-0
Mike Grella made his first start since joining Crew SC in the off-season. The real surprise in the starting XI came with manager Gregg Berhalter inserting Ricardo Clark and Hector Jimenez in for Wil Trapp and Milton Valenzuela respectively. For Trapp, it marked the first time he didn’t start for Columbus without receiving a USMNT call-up since October 1, 2016.
Both teams traded missed opportunities early on via hitting the woodwork. The first came via Harrison Afful in the 10th minute when his firmly struck shot banged off the right post. 11 minutes later, Fire rookie Elliot Collier took advantage of some Crew SC ball-watching and teed off from 10 yards out, only to hit the iron on the other side of goal.
The breakthrough for the home team came in the 28th minute. Afful, who was a menace down the right-hand side throughout the first half, flung in a cross towards an onrushing Zardes. It induced some emergency defending from Kevin Ellis who pulled the Crew SC number nine down in the box, forcing referee Allen Chapman to point to the spot.
Federico Higuaín stepped up and buried the resulting penalty kick past Fire goalkeeper Richard Sanchez for his third goal of 2018. It was his 18th goal via a P.K. during his Crew SC career which ranks first all-time in club history.
Five minutes after halftime, the home team doubled their advantage through Zardes. The 26-year-old made it lucky number seven on the season, taking advantage of a great run into the box from Niko Hansen who assisted on the goal. It was a significant moment for the second-year winger out of New Mexico as it the first time he’s appeared on the score sheet this year.
Zardes wasn’t done. In the 70th minute, he notched his brace to increase his goal-scoring total on the year to eight. It was the culmination of some spectacular build-up play down the right side of the field with Ricardo Clark and Hector Jimenez providing the helpers. And it served to reinforce the fact that a striker who fell out of form over the past few seasons is well and truly on the upswing.
After a two-game homestand, Columbus is back on the road next week when they face the New England Revolution on Saturday, May 19. Kickoff from Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, MA gets underway at 7:30 p.m. ET.
COLUMBUS: 28′ Federico Higuain, 50′ Gyasi Zardes (Niko Hansen), 70′ Gyasi Zardes (Ricardo Clark, Hector Jimenez)
COLUMBUS: 57′ Gyasi Zardes (simulation)
CHICAGO: 27′ Kevin Ellis (unsporting behavior)