The Columbus Crew opened up their 2021 season in style with a convincing 4-0 victory over Nicaraguan side Real Esteli in the Concacaf Champions League on Thursday, getting off to a quick start by scoring all four goals in the first half.
For head coach Caleb Porter, it was an impressive showing after only five weeks of preseason.
"We’ve only been at this five weeks so I knew it wouldn’t be perfect but I thought our mentality was excellent, the way we started the match," Porter said in a post-match press conference.
The Crew created a substantial advantage in the first half, scoring four goals from the 19th minute until the end of the half, which Porter described as "opportunistic." While it gives the Crew some flexibility in the second leg in a week's time, he also felt that performance was able to showcase some of the work the team had been putting in during preseason.
"It was great to see us be goal dangerous and ruthless in transition and on set pieces actually," Porter said. "Those are things we talked about. Those are things we worked on and we have different ways we can win games. I’ve said it before — we have many different weapons and I thought today it was the transition and set pieces. That’s been a point of emphasis for our team. I didn’t think last year we did well enough in those moments so that was great to see."
Porter also spotlighted the work of Gyasi Zardes, who scored a brace against Esteli, and the defense, who sustained pressure from Real Esteli in the second half to keep a clean sheet. This being the Crew's first game of the year, though, the head coach knows there remains room for improvement.
"There were things we could do better," he said. "We’ll look at that. Wanted to see a little bit more control at times. ... I thought they had a few moments, certainly."
"Seemed like it wasn’t anything real serious but we don’t know yet," he said about Nagbe. "Same with Derrick. We think he’s fine."