The Columbus Crew kept their slim Audi 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs hopes alive with a 3-1 victory over D.C. United at Audi Field on Saturday night, powered by a brace from Lucas Zelarayan.

D.C. got an early opener from Paul Arriola that put the Black-and-Red in position to end Columbus' postseason aspirations, which they could have accomplished with a win or draw. Instead, the Crew struck for three unanswered tallies, two of which were scored by their Argentine maestro.

D.C. United jumped on top just three minutes into the match in spectacular fashion through Arriola. The US international ran onto an over-the-top ball from Felipe and unleashed a scorching first-time volley to the far post that gave Columbus goalkeeper Eloy Room no chance.

But the Crew equalized just before the halftime whistle through a penalty kick that was both won and converted by Zelarayan. The Designated Player first coaxed Tony Alfaro into a foul in the D.C. penalty box, then sent Bill Hamid the wrong way from the spot to coolly slot home the leveler.

Knowing their playoff hopes were in the balance, the Crew came out firing to start the second half, with two near-misses at a go-ahead goal just after the restart. The first came off the head of Liam Fraser, who forced Hamid into a diving save with a flicked header off Zelarayan's pinpoint free kick. Pedro Santos then went inches from a spectacular golazo shortly after with a scorching shot from distance that rattled the crossbar.

Santos found the go-ahead goal in the 66th minute, finishing off a transition opportunity started by a feed from Darlington Nagbe. The winger charged into acres of space after Andy Najar missed his attempt to intercept the pass, then snuck his chipped shot past Hamid and into the net.

The Crew sunk the dagger 10 minutes later after a giveaway from Donovan Pines allowed Miguel Berry to set Zelarayan up with a first-time shot from outside the box, which he cashed home with a highlight-reel curling strike.

Goals

  • 3' - DC - Paul Arriola | WATCH
  • 45' - CLB - Lucas Zelarayan (PK) | WATCH
  • 66' - CLB - Pedro Santos | WATCH
  • 76' - CLB - Lucas Zelarayan | WATCH

Three Things

  • THE BIG PICTURE: Down a goal with their season on the line, it was a huge comeback result from the Crew, who were flat-out dominant in the second half. They're still hanging on by a thread in the East playoff hunt, with their 44 points leaving them in ninth place, but the reigning MLS Cup champions are in the mix with one game left. D.C. have fallen below the playoff line and into the No. 8 spot with this result, meaning they're still alive as well. But Hernan Losada's group is experiencing a dip in form at the wrong time, with a lackluster 1-4-1 record in October.
  • MOMENT OF THE MATCH: Zelarayan's second goal was a gorgeous strike and laid to rest any chance the hosts had of drawing level.
  • MAN OF THE MATCH: The Crew needed their best player to step up, and Zelarayan was more than up to the task, putting in an electric all-around shift in addition to the two goals.

Next Up

  • DC: Sunday, November 7 at Toronto FC | 3:30 pm ET (MLS LIVE on ESPN+)
  • CLB: Sunday, November 7 vs. Chicago Fire FC | 3:30 ET (MLS LIVE on ESPN+)