Gyasi Zardes Receives Praise From Gregg Berhalter After 16th Goal of 2018: “I’m Really Proud of Him”

Gyasi Zardes

Columbus Crew SC took care of business as expected Saturday.

In front of 19,121 at MAPFRE Stadium, the largest crowd of 2018, the Black and Gold knocked off the Colorado Rapids by a 2-1 scoreline. The result gives Columbus its fifth straight win at home and erases a current two-game winless run. It also ensures they’ll stay fourth in the East regardless of what happens in Sunday’s game between the Philadelphia Union and Sporting Kansas City.

Crew SC opened the scoring in the 17th minute. It originated via a well-placed diagonal ball from Justin Meram towards Federico Higuain. The Crew SC number 10 then flicked it towards Gyasi Zardes who did a great job staying onside. He then dribbled towards goal and slotted it past Tim Howard to make it 1-0.

Zardes reached a few important personal milestones with the tally. It marks his 16th goal of 2018 which matches a single-season career high he previously set back in 2014. The score was also the 50th of his MLS career. It also signified that Higuain was back to his playmaking ways given it was his first assist since June 9.

“I’m really proud of (Zardes),” Crew SC manager told after the game. “I’m really proud of the way he’s been able to score goals and help our team. It starts with his mindset. It starts with what type of guy he is, what type of work he’s willing to do for the team.”

The Black and Gold’s lead didn’t last long. Nine minutes after surrendering the opening goal, the Rapids equalized. The goal came in rather bizarre fashion. After Columbus got whistled for a foul, attacking midfielder Shkelzen Gashi quickly took the free kick before Crew SC had a chance to set their wall. His effort caught goalkeeper Zack Steffen off-guard and floated into the net.

Referee Allen Chapman’s decision to not let Crew SC set their wall certainly came across as puzzling to most if not all of the players on the field.

“His reasoning was they never ask for 10 yards,” said Wil Trapp. “But for us, it was an awkward one because he told our guys to back up off the ball. So we’re thinking if you’re backing up off the ball then he’s gonna ask for the whistle. In the end, we have to be a little more, I don’t know, clever in those moments.”

Chapman tended to let a lot of things go in the first half. And there was a certain elevated level of physicality over the course of the match. It boiled over in the 51st minute when left-back Deklan Wynne kneed Pedro Santos from behind. It left Chapman no choice but to brandish a red card, thus ending Wynne’s day.

It didn’t take long for Crew SC to pounce on their man-advantage. Six minutes after Wynne’s sending off, the ball came into the Rapids box and an attempted clearance glanced off Milton Valenzuela’s shin and spilled towards Higuain. The Argentine playmaker calmly placed the ball past Howard’s left and into the net to make it 2-1 home team.

Pipa’s tally was fairly significant in that it was his first score since June 2. That game, he converted a penalty kick as part of a furious Crew SC comeback against Toronto FC to force a 3-3 draw. That game was also the last time Higuain registered a goal and an assist in the same game.

“For Federico, just getting in a rhythm (is important),” Berhalter told the Columbus Dispatch after the game. “He’s so influential in what we do and when he gets in that rhythm and gets in that mentality to score goals, he’s dangerous.”

Tonight’s game was the first of a two-game homestand for the Black and Gold. Their next outing takes place against the Philadelphia Union on Saturday, September 29. It’s a match with a great deal of importance given the Union is one spot behind Crew SC in the standings. Proceedings get underway at 7:30 p.m.

Photo credit: Daniel Herlensky, Columbus Crew SC Communications