Columbus Crew SC picked up a second straight convincing win to start their MLS is Back Tournament campaign, topping the New York Red Bulls 2-0 in Group E play on Thursday on the strength of goals from Gyasi Zardes and Lucas Zelarayan.
With the victory, Columbus vaulted to the top of Group E and punched their ticket to the Knockout Stage of the tournament.
Zardes found the opener for Columbus in the 22nd minute after Pedro Santos collected a throw-in and found the US international in stride for a wide-open chance against RBNY goalkeeper David Jensen. Zardes was clinical with the finish, giving the Crew the first-half lead.
Columbus had a golden look at doubling that advantage on the half-hour mark when Zardes got free on a breakaway and dished off to Derrick Etienne Jr., who had a look on an open goal, only to put it into the side netting.
The Crew found their second shortly after second-half kickoff, though, when Etienne atoned for the miss by winning possession in RBNY's half and making a charging run down the left flank, before dishing to Zelarayan at the top of the area. The Argentine playmaker then lashed a perfectly placed first-time strike past Jensen and into the net.
Man of the Match presented by Heineken
Zardes got it all started with his goal and he's now scored three times in two games to start the tournament. He also would have had an assist with some more clinical finishing on Etienne's first-half chance.
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just keeps on churning at the age of 29 in his 10th MLS season. If the midfield metronome keeps playing like this, it just makes Columbus that much more potent.