Crew SC opened the 2018 Carolina Challenge Cup by defeating fellow MLS side Atlanta United FC 3-1 thanks to goals by Pedro Santos and Cristian Martinez in the first half and a second half own goal by Josef Martinez.
As has been the case throughout most of preseason, Crew SC scored early in the match. In the 13th minute, Pedro Santos received a through ball from Federico Higuain on the left which he then put past Atlanta goalkeeper Brad Guzan. The strike was Santos’ first goal with the Black & Gold, something the Designated Player was happy about.
“Every game I try to score, I try to do my best and I feel so good to [have] scored my first goal. I hope the next game I keep scoring,” said Santos. “I try to do my best and I think there’s going to be more goals from myself.”
Crew SC further extended its lead in the 33rd minute when Cristian Martinez audaciously chipped the ball over Guzan from well outside the box to make it 2-0. Martinez assisted by Artur, who had received the ball from Zack Steffen.
On his goal, Martinez spoke about the quick reaction that was required in the lead up to the goal.
“It was quick thinking. I saw that Zack gave the ball to Artur, I saw that I had space and I ran into space in the moment,” said Martinez. “I saw that the goalkeeper was a little bit out, so I attempted it.”
The second half saw Columbus continue to apply pressure despite Atlanta not backing down. Crew SC’s pressure led to a corner kick in the 71st minute, which was taken by Pedro Santos. Santos’ corner kick deflected off Josef Martinez and went into the back of Atlanta United’s net, giving Crew SC a 3-0 lead.
Josef Martinez managed to score a goal for Atlanta in the 90th minute, but it was to no avail as the defending Carolina Challenge Cup champions won by a score of 3-1.
Following the match, Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter praised his team’s mentality coming into the match.
“The important thing was the mentality,” said Berhalter. “We knew we were going to be fatigued, we knew we were coming up against a good team and it wasn’t always going to be perfect, but I think the guys did a good job of hanging in there and had the right mentality.”
Up next, Crew SC takes on the Carolina Challenge Cup hosts – the Charleston Battery – on Wednesday, February 21 at 5:00 p.m. at MUSC Health Stadium. The match is set to air on BeIN Sports and will also be streamed on ColumbusCrewSC.com.
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.
Columbus Crew SC: Zack Steffen; Harrison Afful, Jonathan Mensah, Lalas Abubakar, Milton Valenzuela; Artur (Sean Zawadzki** 60’), Wil Trapp ©; Cristian Martinez, Federico Higuain, Pedro Santos; Gyasi Zardes
Subs: Logan Ketterer
**Crew SC Academy player
Atlanta United FC: Brad Guzan; Sal Zizzo (Oliver Shannon 66’), Larentowicz, Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, Mikey Ambrose (Kevin Kratz 66’); Darlington Nagbe (Brandon Vazquez 84’), Chris McCann; Julian Gressel, Miguel Almiron, Ezequiel Barco (Andrew Carleton 84’); Josef Martinez
CLB – Pedro Santos (Federico Higuain) 13’
CLB – Cristian Martinez (Artur) 33’
CLB – Josef Martinez (own goal) 71’
ATL – Josef Martinez (Miguel Amiron) 90’
CLB – Lalas Abubakar (caution) 31’
ATL – Leandro Gonzalez Pirez (caution) 54’