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RECAP | Zardes brace, Zelarayan golazo propel Crew to commanding 4-0 win in MLS is Back Tournament opener

*Note: This editorial was edited by ColumbusCrewSC.com and provided by MLSsoccer.com

The Crew took an emphatic Hell is Real rivalry victory to open their Group E slate, cruising to a 4-0 rout of FC Cincinnati on Saturday behind a Gyasi Zardes brace, a stunner from Lucas Zelarayan and an insurance tally from Youness Mokhtar.

Zelarayan put Columbus up in the 27th minute with the goal of the tournament so far — an absolutely gorgeous free-kick golazo that he curled past Orange and Blue goalkeeper Przemysław Tyton and into the net.

Zardes then added the second just three minutes later, as the FC Cincy backline completely lost track of the US international striker, who took a through ball from Mokhtar and beat Tyton for an easy finish.

Zardes made it 3-0 with his second in the 49th minute, cashing in a point-blank look off a pinpoint cross from Zelarayan, who dominated a FC Cincy's midfield throughout the evening.

Mokhtar got in on the action on the hour mark, slotting home another easy finish from inside the area to push it to 4-0, which would mercifully stand as the final scoreline.

Goals

  • 27' - CLB - Lucas Zelarayan | WATCH
  • 30' - CLB - Gyasi Zardes | WATCH
  • 49' - CLB - Gyasi Zardes | WATCH
  • 60' - CLB - Youness Mokhtar | WATCH

Three Things

  • THE BIG PICTURE: You could give the caveat that it came against FC Cincinnati's notoriously porous defense, but it was a dominant showing from the Crew, who were billed by many as a preseason darling and look poised to make good on those predictions. For FC Cincy, it was more of the same shambolic defending that plagued their expansion season. If there's any benefit of the doubt to give, it's that they've just started implementing a new philosophy under recently hired head coach Jaap Stam — something that was always going to take some time. But that won't be of any help in this tournament.
     
  • MOMENT OF THE MATCH: It was a proud moment for US men's national team head coach Gregg Berhalter, who was in attendance for the match, and got to witness the professional debut of his son Sebastian, who was brought on as a substitute in the 77th minute and finished out the contest.
  • YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: Zelarayan and Zardes got the goals, but if there was an unsung hero for Columbus it was probably Darlington Nagbe — a player who is used to that role.

MATCH NOTES

  • Forward Gyasi Zardes two goals in tonight’s match against FC Cincinnati, scoring for Crew SC in the 30th-minute and again in the 49th-minute. Zardes’ first goal was assisted by Youness Mokhtar, while his second was assisted by Lucas Zelarayan. With these goals, Zardes extended his lead as Crew SC’s leading regular-season goal scorer against FC Cincinnati, with the forward registering five goals in three matches against FCC. During the 2020 MLS regular season, Zardes has made three regular-season appearances (all starts), while scoring three goals.
     
  • Midfielder Lucas Zelarayan scored his second goal of the 2020 season in tonight’s match, as he converted a free kick attempt in the 27th-minute to give Crew SC a 1-0 lead. Zelarayan then turned provider in the 49th-minute - registering his first regular-season assist with Crew SC when he set up Crew SC’s third goal of the night. The Argentine midfielder also provided an assist on Youness Mokhtar’s 60th-minute goal. Since joining Crew SC ahead of the 2020 season, Zelarayan has made three regular-season appearances (all starts) while registering two goals and two assists.
     
  • Midfielder Youness Mokhtar scored a goal and provided an assist in tonight’s match. The midfielder’s assist – his first helper for the club - came in the 30th-minute, when he set up Gyasi Zardes’ strike. Mokhtar’s goal - his first strike of the 2020 regular season came in the 60th minute, when he combined with Hector Jimenez and Lucas Zelarayan to score Crew SC’s fourth goal of the night. In 2020, Mokhtar has made three regular-season appearances (two starts) while scoring one goal and providing one assist.
     
  • Midfielder Hector Jimenez made his first start of the 2020 MLS regular season in tonight’s contest against FC Cincinnati. This marks the first regular season match played for Jimenez since the August 3, 2019 match against San Jose Earthquakes. Jimenez marked the occasion by registering his first assist of the 2020 MLS regular season, as he provided the pass on Youness Mokhtar’s 60th-minute goal.
     
  • Goalkeeper Eloy Room recorded three saves during tonight’s match en route to keeping a shutout against FC Cincinnati. This was Room’s second clean sheet of the 2020 regular season, having also recorded a shutout in the season-opening 1-0 victory against New York City FC (March 1).
     
  • Midfielders Sebastian Berhalter and Aidan Morris both made their regular-season debuts for the Black & Gold in tonight’s match against FC Cincinnati. The two midfielders came into the match as substitutes in the 77th minute. Berhalter and Morris are in their rookie season and were signed as Homegrown Players ahead of the 2020 season.
     
  • With tonight’s 4-0 victory, Crew SC extended its all-time regular-season undefeated streak against in-state rival FC Cincinnati, with a record of 3-0-1 since the beginning of the 2019 MLS season. Notably, the Black & Gold has outscored FC Cincinnati 9-3 over that span.
     
  • With the result against FC Cincinnati, Crew SC’s record moved to 2-0-1 for the 2020 MLS regular season. Additionally, tonight’s result brought the Crew’s record in the MLS is Back Tournament to 1-0-0 with 3 points. The Black & Gold currently sit atop Group E on goal difference (+4).
     
  • Up next, Crew SC faces New York Red Bulls for its second Group E match of the MLS is Back Tournament on Thursday, July 16 (10:30 p.m. ET [FS1, TUDN, TSN, FOX Sports App (Stream), TUDN App (Stream), TSN App (Stream) / Streaming online via the “Listen Live” button at  971TheFan.com / Spanish audio on ColumbusCrewSC.com.
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