Columbus Crew SC took an emphatic Hell is Real rivalry victory to open their Group E slate, cruising to a 4-0 rout of FC Cincinnati on Saturday behind a Gyasi Zardes brace, a stunner from Lucas Zelarayan and an insurance tally from Youness Mokhtar.
Zelarayan put Columbus up in the 27th minute with the goal of the tournament so far — an absolutely gorgeous free-kick golazo that he curled past Orange and Blue goalkeeper Przemysław Tyton and into the net.
Zardes then added the second just three minutes later, as the FC Cincy backline completely lost track of the US international striker, who took a through ball from Mokhtar and beat Tyton for an easy finish.
Zardes made it 3-0 with his second in the 49th minute, cashing in a point-blank look off a pinpoint cross from Zelarayan, who dominated FC Cincy's midfield throughout the evening. Mokhtar got in on the action on the hour mark, slotting home another easy finish from inside the area to push it to 4-0, which would mercifully stand as the final scoreline.
- 27' - CLB - Lucas Zelarayan | WATCH
- 30' - CLB - Gyasi Zardes | WATCH
- 49' - CLB - Gyasi Zardes | WATCH
- 60' - CLB - Youness Mokhtar | WATCH
Man of the Match presented by Heineken
They don't get much prettier than that first-half free kick from Zelarayan, and his assist on Zardes' second was almost as pretty. Simply put, the Argentine has been electric in his short-lived time in MLS so far, and if he keeps up this form the Crew have the makings of an Eastern Conference force beyond just this tournament.
- THE BIG PICTURE: You could give the caveat that it came against FC Cincinnati's notoriously porous defense, but it was a dominant showing from the Crew, who were billed by many as a preseason darling and look poised to make good on those predictions. For FC Cincy, it was more of the same shambolic defending that plagued their expansion season. If there's any benefit of the doubt to give, it's that they've just started implementing a new philosophy under recently hired head coach Jaap Stam — something that was always going to take some time. But that won't be of any help in this tournament.
- MOMENT OF THE MATCH: It was a proud moment for US men's national team head coach Gregg Berhalter, who was in attendance for the match, and got to witness the professional debut of his son Sebastian, who was brought on as a substitute in the 77th minute and finished out the contest.
- YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: Zelarayan and Zardes got the goals, but if there was an unsung hero for Columbus it was probably Darlington Nagbe — a player who is used to that role.