Crew SC topped Minnesota United FC 2-0 on Saturday night en route to winning the Carolina Challenge Cup title for the second consecutive year.
The Black & Gold started the match in style with an early chance by Federico Higuain that put Minnesota United on their toes in the opening minutes of the match. In the 32nd minute, Higuain volleyed a rocket to the back of Minnesota's net. Just as the dust began to settle, Harrison Afful hit a one-touch cross that found Gyasi Zardes on the back post. Zardes sent the ball past goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth just five minutes after Higuain's strike, putting Crew SC up 2-0 at the break.
Zardes came in hot off the break and put the Loons on the defensive with another close call in the opening moments of the second half. Cristian Martinez also made sure Minnesota didn’t get too comfortable with a blast from close range in the 72nd minute, but the Loons’ goalkeeper pounced into action to avoid a third goal.
After topping three teams in a row to win back-to-back Carolina Challenge Cup titles, the Black & Gold will open the 2018 MLS regular season on the road against Toronto FC on March 3 before returning to MAPFRE Stadium on March 10 for their home opener against the Montreal Impact.
Columbus Crew SC: Zack Steffen; Harrison Afful, Jonathan Mensah ©, Lalas Abubakar, Milton Valenzuela; Artur (Clark 75’), Wil Trapp ©; Cristian Martinez, Federico Higuain (Edward Opoku 83’), Pedro Santos (Luis Argudo 75’); Gyasi Zardes
Minnesota United FC: Bobby Shuttleworth; Tyrone Mears, Michael Boxall, Francisco Calvo, Jerome Thiesson, Ibson, Rasmus Schuller, Collin Martin (Collen Warner 83’), Ethan Finlay, Kevin Molino (Sam Nicholson 84’), Christian Ramirez (Abu Danladi 73’)
CLB – Federico Higuain (unassisted) 32’
CLB – Gyasi Zardes (Harrison Afful) 37’
CLB – Jonathan Mensah (caution) 59’
MNU – Michael Boxall (caution) 64’