Columbus Crew SC newcomer Gyasi Zardes scored twice and put the Black & Gold ahead of Japanese top-flight side Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo in the first half at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, Hawaii on Thursday, but the J1 League representative escaped with the 3-2 comeback victory.
Zardes, acquired via a trade with the LA Galaxy on January 20, scored for the third time in two preseason friendlies since joining the Black & Gold. The match's opener came just 13 minutes in, when the Hawthorne, Calif., native latched onto a ball inside the 18-yard box and coolly finished a left-footed strike. From his chested control to the precision finish, the 26-year-old illustrated composure in a crowded box during a frantically fast first half.
After Sapporo equalized just more than 10 minutes later, Zardes would again have a chance to give Columbus the lead. Free Agent addition Ricardo Clark was tackled hard in the box while trying to recover a wild rebound in the 37th minute. The resulting penalty kick saw Zardes powerfully place his right-footed spot strike into the corner of the net, sending Sapporo's goalkeeper diving the wrong way.
The Japanese side would again equalize, this time on the final kick of the first 45 minutes, before scoring the match's final goal in the 48th minute.
Crew SC will close out the Pacific Rim Cup on Saturday with a 9 p.m. ET kickoff against Japanese side Iwaki FC at Aloha Stadium. The match will be live streamed here.
The Major League Soccer regular season will kick off just days after the conclusion of the CCC and Crew SC's preseason, with Crew SC opening their season on the road at Toronto FC on March 3. Following that 2017 Eastern Conference Championship rematch, Crew SC returns to MAPFRE Stadium to host the Montreal Impact on March 10, 2018.
In 2017, Crew SC returned to the postseason for the third time in four years and reached the Eastern Conference Championship for the second time in four seasons under Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter.