Columbus Crew SC faced a gut check moment on Wednesday.
Five days after a disastrous 5-0 loss to Toronto FC, incidentally the worst MLS regular season loss in club history, the club needed a positive response. They received it in spades with Columbus routing the defending MLS Cup Champion Seattle Sounders 3-0 at MAPFRE Stadium.
Federico Higuain, Justin Meram and Ola Kamara tallied the goals as Crew SC handed Seattle its third three-goal defeat this season.
Columbus Crew SC Responds to Adversity With 3-0 Rout of Seattle Sounders
The starting XI looked somewhat different from Friday’s 5-0 drubbing against Toronto FC. That was especially the case defensively, with manager Gregg Berhalter making three changes on the back four. Hector Jimenez and Jukka Raitala replaced Harrison Afful and Waylon Francis respectively at fullback. Meanwhile, Josh Williams made his fourth start in central defense, filling in for Nicolai Naess.
Both Francis and Naess were healthy scratches for the game. With the club on short turnaround facing a Saturday road game in the altitude of Colorado, Berhalter opted for some rotation in the lineup.
Artur and Wil Trapp comprised the defensive midfield partnership. This after Trapp took up the role by himself in a 4-1-4-1 formation on Friday against Toronto. In Artur’s case, it marked his second start since injuring his wrist on April 22nd against the New York Red Bulls.
Ethan Finlay returned to the starting lineup after playing in just 22 minutes over the last three games. The wide player saw action as a sub against Toronto during that time. He joined Meram, Higuain and Kamara in attack.
The match started off with the home side looking to dictate possession. But there were instances of sloppy distribution which Seattle looked to take advantage of by hitting Columbus in transition. In the end, Crew SC remained resolute defensively in staving off any danger near their goal.
Eventually, the team began looking goal-dangerous in their own attacking third. It culminated in a brilliant Higuain goal in the tenth minute. The Argentinian playmaker took advantage of some excellent defensive work from Jimenez, who quickly won the ball and passed it to his teammate. Higuain then fired it low and towards the far post, beating Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei.
11 minutes later, Crew SC doubled the advantage. Once again, the chance originated via some solid effort winning possession. After Trapp recovered the ball in Crew SC’s half of the field, his through ball found Meram at midfield. The Columbus left winger showcased his exceptional dribbling ability at cycling it towards goal. He then blasted it past Frei in roughly the same Manner Higuain did so to open up the scoring.
With the tally, Meram now has eight goals on the year. That matches his career high from the 2014 season. In Trapp’s case, his helper gives him two assists for 2017 so far.
Crew SC’s dominance around the opposition’s goal was on full display in the first 45. The Black and Gold finished with an 8-2 advantage in total shots and a 3-0 edge in shots on target.
The home side came out for the second stanza not content to sit on their two-goal cushion. Columbus continued to force the issue in the hopes of expanding their lead. Over the first 15 minutes of the half, they outshot the Sounders 3-2.
In the 59th minute, that purposefulness in possession was rewarded. And it came off the foot of Ola Kamara. After hitting the right post a few minutes earlier, he did so again. Only this time, it caromed into the net to give the Black and Gold a 3-0 lead.
Meram and Higuain both tallied assists on the score. For Higuain, it marked a milestone moment for his career as a Crew SC player. The 32-year-old number ten became just the third player in club history to register 40 goals and 40 assists in Black and Gold, joining Jeff Cunningham and Brian McBride.
Zack Steffen turned in a phenomenal performance in goal to preserve the shutout. The Crew SC netminder registered four saves in total, with three coming in the second half. It included a fantastic denial of Nicolas Lodeiro from distance in the 57th minute.
In a way, Steffen’s exploits encapsulated the team’s as a whole. After letting in five on a horrific night in Toronto, him and his teammates rallied around each other and responded. It resulted in the Black and Gold putting together their most dominant 90 minute display of 2017. And to make it even sweeter, it came against the league’s defending champs.
Crew SC’s next match takes place this coming weekend as the Black and Gold faces the Colorado Rapids on the road. Kickoff at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, CO takes place at 9 PM ET.
Photo credit: Columbus Crew SC Communications