*Note: This editorial was edited by ColumbusCrewSC.com and provided by MLSsoccer.com
Both sides traded chances throughout the evening, but Columbus Crew SC (5-0-1, 16 pts.) wound up cruising to a 3-0 victory over Chicago Fire FC at MAPFRE Stadium on Thursday, courtesy of a first-half goal from Derrick Etienne Jr, a screamer from Darlington Nagbe and a late insurance tally from Gyasi Zardes.
At 4-0-1 for the first time in franchise history, the Crew continues to hold its spot atop the Supporters' Shield race while notching four straight regular-season wins for the first time since 2012. The last time the Black & Gold won five straight was back in 2009.
After a back-and-forth start on Thursday as part of the Phase 1 opener, Columbus found the game-winning goal in the 20th minute, when Milton Valenzuela found Etienne unmarked in the penalty box, allowing the midfielder to slot home a cheeky finish past Chicago goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth.
Chicago had a pair of near-misses in the first half, first at the end of a 17th-minute counterattack that ended with Przemyslaw Frankowski putting his shot just wide of the far post. Ignacio Aliseda also nearly found the equalizer with a deflected shot in the 35th minute that trickled wide.
The Crew had a golden opportunity to double the lead on the stroke of halftime when Luis Diaz made a charging run into the box and was brought down from behind by Miguel Navarro, drawing a penalty kick whistle from referee Guido Gonzales Jr. But Zardes would sky the attempt from the spot, keeping it 1-0.
The match stayed open into the second half, with Nagbe slamming the door in the 81st minute with an absolutely perfectly hit, highlight-reel golazo from distance past Shuttleworth, before Zardes added some late insurance with a tap-in finish in the 88th.
- 20' - CLB - Derek Etienne Jr. | WATCH
- 81' - CLB - Darlington Nagbe | WATCH
- 88' - CLB - Gyasi Zardes | WATCH
THE BIG PICTURE:
- Columbus endured a disappointing exit from the MLS is Back Tournament after a torrid start, but they're now unbeaten in six straight matches in league play to start 2020 and look primed to remain a force in the Eastern Conference.
MOMENT OF THE MATCH:
- It doesn't get much better than this from Nagbe. It isn't just an easy pick for the MLS Goal of the Week. It might be your Goal of the Year, which he also won in 2011 with a similar strike as a member of the Portland Timbers.
- With his goal in tonight’s match against Chicago Fire FC, forward Gyasi brought his 2020 regular-season total to five tallies in six matches. Zardes’ goal came in the 88th minute, when he finished off a pass from midfielder Pedro Santos. The forward also provide an assist in the 81st minute, setting up Darlington Nagbe’s goal. Since joining MLS in 2013, Zardes has made 198 regular-season appearances (183 starts), scoring 72 goals and providing 20 assists.
- Midfielder Darlington Nagbe scored his first goal of the 2020 regular season – as well as his first goal for Crew SC - in the 81st minute of tonight’s match against the Chicago Fire. In the 88th minute of the match, Nagbe turned provider, as he combined with Pedro Santos to set up Gyasi Zardes’ goal. Since joining the Crew ahead of the 2020 MLS season, Nagbe has made six regular-season appearances (all starts), registering one goal and one assist for the Black & Gold.
- Midfielder Derrick Etienne Jr. scored his first goal with Crew SC in tonight’s match against Chicago Fire FC. The goal came in the 20th minute of the match, when he put away a pass from defender Milton Valenzuela. Since joining Crew SC ahead of the 2020 MLS season, Etienne Jr. has made five regular-season appearances (two starts), scoring one goal and providing one assist.
- Defenders Milton Valenzuela and Josh Williams, as well as midfielder Pedro Santos each registered an assist in tonight’s match. Valenzuela’s and Williams’ helper came in the 20th minute of the match, when the two players combined to set up Derrick Etienne Jr.’s opening goal. Santos’ assist came in the 88th-minute, as he crossed the ball for Gyasi Zardes to make the score 3-0.
- Midfielder Emmanuel Boateng made his first appearance for the Crew as a 75th -minute substitute for midfielder Derrick Etienne Jr. in tonight’s match against the Chicago Fire. Boateng recently joined Crew SC via a trade with D.C. United in exchange for defender Axel Sjoberg on August 14.
- Goalkeeper Andrew Tarbell posted his second regular-season shutout of the year in tonight’s 3-0 victory over the Chicago Fire, helping Crew SC record its fifth clean sheet of the year. Notably, the last regular-season goal Crew SC allowed from open play was against Vancouver last year in a 1-1 draw on September 21, 2019.
- With the result against Atlanta United, Crew SC’s record moved to 5-0-1 (16 pts.) for the 2020 MLS regular season. Tonight’s win was the Crew’s fourth regular-season win a row, the first streak of that length since the 2012 campaign that started with a victory over Toronto FC at home (August 22, 2012) and ended with a defeat against the New England Revolution (September 5, 2012).
- Up next, Crew SC goes on the road to face New York City FC on Monday, August 24 (7:00 p.m. ET [FOX Sports Ohio, FOX Sports Go App (Stream)] / Streaming online via the “Listen Live” button at 971TheFan.com / Spanish audio on ColumbusCrewSC.com).