“I remember those misses,” said Zardes. “And I worked on them during training. Just to score today from crosses, it shows that hard work pays off.”
The Designated Player missed a 90th-minute sitter on August 10 that would have secured three points for Columbus in the first match against their Ohio rivals.
In the second contest on Sunday, he didn’t miss, scoring the first two goals in a 3-1 win over FC Cincy. Zardes was quick to redirect the praise he received to his coaching staff and teammates after the match.
“Coach gave me a couple of days off midweek and I think that was great for myself, you know, just to allow myself to have a little bit more rest . . . But I give my teammates the credit because they've been grinding and putting in the work for us to turn over the ball and to get the ball into the final attack.”
Crew head coach Caleb Porter showered praise on his striker after the win at Nippert Stadium.
“I thought he was outstanding,” said Porter of Zardes’ performance. “You know, we needed that from him. He delivered tonight, and I thought he responded really well from a couple games where he missed some chances. We had a couple of good chats and I actually gave him I gave him the day off Wednesday, just to reset. I think he showed again why he’s our designated player.”
Outside of that miss in the first Hell is Real derby match, Zardes has been in good form for the Crew since returning from of USMNT duty for Gold Cup, scoring five goals in the past eight matches he’s played.
“He's a guy that gets into good spots,” said Porter, explaining the reason for Zardes’ recent success. “He showed that tonight. You put him in good spots with the ball, and he's going to score. A couple games prior to this, he had good chances and was in spots and he didn't score. Tonight, he showed his quality.”
The three points taken from their rivals on Sunday were essential for the Crew to maintain any hope of getting above the playoff line. Porter’s men currently sit in 11th place in the East and need to use their latest result as a platform for a final push for points to end the season. They now sit seven points back from seventh-placed Toronto FC.
“It’s been a tough year,” said Caleb Porter. “We still have five games to play. We’re not done yet. We’re going to keep swinging. We’re going to keep fighting and who knows what will happen.”