Forward Gyasi Zardes only played 1,717 minutes this regular-season – the second-fewest of his eight-year Major League Soccer career – but scored his fourth-most goals with 12, led by a career-best 143 minutes-per-goal ratio, or two goals nearly every three games.
This season, Columbus Crew SC is 7-1-2 when Zardes finds the back of the net, and of course, when the Club concedes the second-fewest goals in MLS, any tally is going to have a significant correlation between the final result and Zardes's play.
That said, at 29-years-old, even a disjointed, truncated 2020 season did not appear to faze Zardes, who finished tied for second in the MLS Golden Boot race in addition to tying his second-highest regular-season assist total with four.
In terms of immeasurables, it's clear Zardes's ability to find the right run is elite, as evidenced by not only 1) his third consecutive year with double-digit goals, 2) being the leading American goal scorer in MLS since 2018, but also by the instincts shown here, or here, as well as here.
Of course, Head Coach Caleb Porter's insistence on the team's collective defensive effort inevitably starts with the No. 9, and it's no surprise that Zardes started in eight of Columbus's nine shutouts this season, while appearing in all nine. Additionally, Zardes has shown he's never one to shy away from a challenge, as the striker finished with the third-most aerial duels won among forwards with 58.
Now, with nearly two weeks since Columbus's most recent 2-1 win over Atlanta on Nov. 8, Saturday's match will feature a rested Zardes, Darlington Nagbe, and Lucas Zelarayan in the starting lineup for just the 10th game this season.
And when that trio starts at MAPFRE Stadium, well, Columbus is a perfect 4-0-0.