The Columbus Crew made the final game at Historic Crew Stadium a night to remember, putting in perhaps their best performance of the year to cruise to a 2-0 victory over Chicago Fire FC on Saturday night.
HIGHLIGHTS: Columbus Crew vs. Chicago Fire FC | June 19, 2021
In a game that ended 22 years at MLS' first soccer-specific stadium, the scoreline harked back to some of its most memorable nights and the "Dos a Cero" US men's national team victories over Mexico for which it became best known. And it was USMNT striker Gyasi Zardes who got both goals for the Crew.
The Crew's new-look front four, with Derrick Etienne, Lucas Zelarayan and Alexandru Matan supporting Zardes, terrorized the visiting Fire from the start. Zardes had already put a header wide before, 18 minutes in, he put the hosts in front. Following a corner, Zelarayan dug up a cross from the left, Chicago's defense failed to clear and Zardes showed his predatory instincts with a snap finish to find the net.
With 34 minutes on the clock, the Crew's lead was deservedly doubled. This time Etienne supplied Zardes, beating the Fire's attempted offside trap off a long ball over the top from Jonathan Mensah and unselfishly squaring for his striker to tap home.
Chicago had plenty of possession but lacked attacking threat, failing to record a single shot on target over the 90 minutes. And the Crew could have extended their lead before halftime, as Etienne and Zardes both went close to goal.
The Fire emerged from the halftime break with some much-needed attacking impetus, but a Francisco Calvo header over the bar from close range was the closest they came to forcing their way back into the game.
And a historic night for the Crew was complete when big offseason signing Kevin Molino came off the bench for his long-awaited debut following injury.
- THE BIG PICTURE: It had been an unexpectedly slow start to the season for the 2020 MLS Cup champions, but they looked somewhere close to their best on Saturday. With back-to-back wins for the first time this year, the Crew are now, temporarily at least, above the playoff line. With Molino's first appearance, things appear to be coming together as they prepare to move into Lower.com Field. The same can't be said of the Fire, who remain on just four points from their opening eight games.
- MOMENT OF THE MATCH: We'll go with Zardes' second goal. Etienne was dangerous all night and could have scored himself, but instead opted to lay a goal on a plate for Zardes. This strike brought up that iconic 2-0 scoreline.
GOAL: Gyasi Zardes, Columbus Crew - 34th minute
- MAN OF THE MATCH: Zardes. Any member of the front four could be considered, but Zardes gets the nod for showing his lethal instincts in the box to make it three goals in two games on either side of the June international break.
- CLB: Wednesday, June 23 at Philadelphia Union | 7:30 pm ET (MLS LIVE on ESPN+) | MLS regular season
- CHI: Wednesday, June 23 vs. FC Cincinnati | 8 pm ET (MLS LIVE on ESPN+) | MLS regular season