Federico Higuain scored a first-half goal on a penalty kick created by Gyasi Zardes, and Zardes scored a brace of his own in the second half, to lead the Columbus Crew SC to a dominant 3-0 win over the Chicago Fire at MAPFRE Stadium on Saturday night.
Remarkably, there wasn't a goal from open play in the first half, even though Harrison Afful and Elliot Collier both hit the post on shot attempts, and both teams created additional chances throughout the half. Crew SC were able to get on the scoreboard in the 28th minute, though, when Zardes went down in the box after contact with Kevin Ellis. Higuain stepped up to take the PK for his teammate, and left no doubt, striking it into the top of the net to open the scoring.
The Crew SC remedied the goals-from-open-play shortage early in the second half, when Niko Hansen — who subbed for an injured Pedro Santos in the 10th minute — knifed through the Fire defense to set Zardes up for an easy tap-in to double the lead. Zardes then scored in the 70th minute to collect his brace, move into the 2018 Golden Boot lead, and assure the Crew SC of their fifth straight result.
- 28' – CLB – Federico Higuain (PK) | WATCH
- 50' – CLB – Gyasi Zardes | WATCH
- 70' – CLB – Gyasi Zardes WATCH
- THE BIG PICTURE: Though offense played a big role for Crew SC tonight, defense continues to be their strong suit as of late. They've now kept three clean sheets in a row; the last team to score on them was the Earthquakes, 315 game minutes ago. While the Fire still sit 7th in the East standings, there's a gap forming between the Top 6 and the rest of the conference, and they're currently on the wrong side of it.
- MOMENT OF THE MATCH: Hansen's run through the Fire defense just minutes into the second half set up Zardes for a far-too-easy goal to double the lead. The Fire kept themselves resolutely in the match during the first half, but didn't seem as threatening once giving up that goal, and the Crew SC kept their attack up.
- MAN OF THE MATCH: Zardes moved ahead of Atlanta United FC's Josef Martinez in the Golden Boot race with his two goals on the night. He nearly had a hat trick on a 75th-minute header that pinged off the post and drew the first-half foul to get the scoring rolling.