Columbus Crew SC Routs Tampa Bay 4-0 in U.S. Open Cup Opener

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About the only thing that prevented Columbus Crew SC from rolling in their U.S. Open Cup opener was the weather.

Roughly 25 minutes into their match with the NASL‘s Tampa Bay Rowdies, storm clouds rolled in. The resulting thunderstorm caused a nearly two-hour delay. But when the teams came back on the field, it was the Black and Gold that asserted their dominance.

Buoyed by a team effort in the attacking third of the field, Crew SC cruised to a 4-0 rout. The final scoreline belied the fairly even play before the delay. Afterwards, it was smooth sailing for the home team.

Columbus Crew SC Routs Tampa Bay Rowdies 4-0 in U.S. Open Cup Opener

Justin Meram, playing in a center forward role as opposed to his more familiar winger position, opened up the scoring in the 41st minute. The 27-year-old collected a well-placed cross from Danish attacking mid Emil Larsen. Meram evaded a defender and blasted it past goalkeeper Matt Pickens for the opening score.

It didn’t take long for Columbus to add another after the score remained 1-0 at halftime. Ethan Finlay, who came on as a sub for Meram at the beginning of the second half, played provider three minutes in. The dynamic winger crossed the ball into the box from the left flank, finding Cristian Martinez. The Panamanian, currently on loan from Chorillo FC, was able to put it away and double the Black and Gold lead.

A mere four minutes later, the lead would grow even bigger. After defensive midfielder Rodrigo Saravia was taken down in the box, referee Greg Dopka pointed to the spot. And this time, it was Finlay’s turn to add his name to the score sheet. Though Pickens guessed right, Finlay blasted it over him into the upper 90 to make it 3-0.

But the Crew SC goal fest wasn’t over then. In the 65th minute the team notched their fourth of the night courtesy of rookie Marshall Hollingsworth. The club’s second round pick in the 2016 MLS SuperDraft had been loaned to the club’s USL affiliate Pittsburgh Riverhounds this season. And he had scored 45 goals during his collegiate career for Division III Wheaton College.

But Wednesday’s goal was Hollingsworth’s first as a professional. Making a well-timed run, he was able to take advantage of a brilliant through ball from Hector Jimenez. The versatile player made no mistake in burying it far post.

New Surroundings

The 2002 cup-winners played this game at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium on the campus of Ohio State University. It’s a venue that normally is home to the Buckeyes soccer team. The game was contested before a crowd of 1,064.

The Black and Gold are now 2-0 against NASL clubs after defeating Indy Eleven 2-1 in their U.S. Open Cup opener back in 2014. All-time, Crew SC is 7-1-1 against clubs from USSF Division II. And Wednesday’s win marks the 16th time out of 19 that the club has emerged victorious in their first match of the tourney.

Crew SC’s fifth round game in U.S. Open Cup play will take place on June 29th. The venue and opponent will be determined at a later date. The club returns to MLS regular season action on Saturday when the Montreal Impact comes to MAPFRE Stadium.

Photo courtesy of Columbus Crew SC Communications.