Columbus cult hero Miguel Berry inspired by Robert Lewandowski for latest game-winner

Miguel Berry's latest inspiration came from one of the world’s best forwards.

The Columbus Crew striker said Robert Lewandowski’s goal against Barcelona earlier Tuesday came to mind when the ball fell to his feet in the box two minutes from full-time at Field.

“Lewandowski’s goal today, put [Gerard] Pique on the deck, I think inspired me a little bit,” Berry said with a chuckle. “Then it was just put it in the goal.”

Lewandowski, who followed Serge Gnabry’s shot off the post, scored his second goal in Bayern Munich’s 3-0 win over FC Barcelona as this year's UEFA Champions League got underway.

Berry’s goal, which broke a 1-1 stalemate, secured a vital 2-1 win for the Crew over the New York Red Bulls to keep their playoff hopes alive.

And like Lewandowski, Berry picked up the rebound – this one off a Lucas Zelarayan shot parried his way by goalkeeper Carlos Coronel – and cut the ball back to his left foot to get around a defender (in this case Andrew Gutman) to score the decisive goal.

Berry has become a cult hero of sorts in Columbus, scoring five goals in 330 total minutes this season. Although he’s started four matches, his biggest contributions in his nine appearances have come off the substitute’s bench.

“He has quality, if he didn’t have that he wouldn’t be scoring the goals he’s scoring. He is very good in the box, very calm, he’s got technique,” head coach Caleb Porter said after the match. “When we do a finishing drill, he’s one of the best finishers. On top of that, his mentality, in terms of learning, coming to work every day as a pro and trying to improve, having the right attitude, listen to the coaches, listen to the senior players. A lot of young guys don’t do that.”

Porter said Berry is a nice guy, perhaps too nice, especially in his first season where Porter said the 23-year-old accepted not playing rather than fighting for those minutes.

“He’s a big, good-looking kid, the type of guy you’d want your daughter to date,” Porter said. “But I’d like to see a few more tattoos on his neck and his teeth knocked out around the goal. He’s a clean-cut nice kid. I think he’s got a fire now.”

That fire, or hunger, is something Porter said has been lacking from many of his players on a consistent basis. The result is the defending MLS Cup champions needing a late-season surge to make the Audi 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs. Columbus are one point below the playoff line in the East with nine games remaining. However, almost every other team in the conference has two games in hand.

“Long term we need to make sure that we have guys who are going to be hungry like last year and have the right attitude and play for the team and not be selfish and not be up and down, frankly,” Porter said. “It’ll be really exciting to build off this second half and see what we’re made of in these last nine games. For a lot of reasons it’s going to give us a lot of information hopefully going into playoffs and also moving forward, who we can count on.”

Berry credits fellow forward Gyasi Zardes with aiding his development, calling the US men's national team veteran the “epitome of what it is to be a good pro.”

“He’s someone who does everything he can to help the team,’ Berry said. “He did it again tonight. He just works his tail off. Whether he scores or not, he’s putting in a shift and a good performance. For me, that’s someone I look up to.”