In a season in which Columbus Crew SC have conceded a league-low five goals, five fewer than the next stingiest team, the squad’s backline has received the deserved accolades.
But Caleb Porter said the attackers for the Supporters’ Shield leaders are quietly making their mark as well.
“Our defending has gotten a lot of the talk and yet I think quietly we’re becoming one of the best attacking teams in the league,” Porter said after the Crew defeated Minnesota United 2-1 at MAPFRE Stadium Wednesday night.
The team’s latest win — their ninth of the season which put the Crew on 30 points through 13 games — was maybe the best example of that attacking unit. Even on a night when Gyasi Zardes saw his three-game goal scoring streak snapped, the front four of Zardes, Pedro Santos, Lucas Zelarayan and Luis Diaz excelled.
“I thought we were excellent today in the attack, scored two great goals, should have scored more and I think that’s the story today,” Porter said. “Our attack really carried us on the day to get those three points.”
Zelarayan is back to full fitness and he partnered well with Santos, who served as a second playmaker of sorts, while also creating width with his left-footed service. The two combined on the first goal, a perfect ball by Santos headed in by Zelarayan.
Santos then added a moment of individual brilliance for what proved to be the winner.
“We’re starting to see that chemistry gel. They’re both very creative players that are very technical. They’re fun to watch and they definitely are a real key to how we attack,” Porter said of Zelarayan and Santos.
“It’s something we talk a lot about in training. We talk about making up space,” Zelarayan said through a translator. “We were able to open up space for each other and when we are able to do that, we make each other better. Tonight I’m happy we were both able to get a goal each.”
Porter said any good attacking system needs a good balance, which he said his team possesses. He said there’s pace and power from Diaz to stretch the lines, Zelarayan’s IQ to unlock defenses with that killer final pass and Santos’ ability to play in the pockets but also create width.
Artur, in central midfield, has a front row seat to all of it.
“We have a good balance now,” he said. “We have Lucas back and Pedro and Luis Diaz and Gyasi. I think they’re all sharing the responsibilities to create something and I think it’s a very good balance for us.”