COLUMBUS, OHIO – Lucas Zelarayán and Columbus Crew SC hosted Gerhard Struber and the New York Red Bulls on Saturday afternoon in the opening round of the 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs. RBNY manager Gerhard Struber was managing his first game on the sidelines for the club.
Lucas Zelarayán Kickstarts Columbus Crew Attack in Playoff win Over RBNY
Columbus had more of the chances in the first half. Goalkeeper Ryan Meara held his own, making a diving save in the 17th minute on a Gyasi Zardes header.
RBNY opened the scoring in the 23rd minute through 17-year-old Caden Clark. Harrison Afful couldn’t clear the ball out of the box on a cross. Clark ran onto the ball and scored from the middle of the box, unmarked.
The Crew responded immediately. Lucas Zelarayán found Pedro Santos in the box. Before Santos could take a second touch to set up a shot, Dru Yearwood plowed into him, taking out a leg and sending the Portuguese to the ground. Santos took the PK and beat Meara to the right even though the keeper guessed the right side.
Darlington Nagbe gave the home side their first lead of the game in the first minute of the second half. Zelarayán hit the post to start the sequence. The ball was recycled back into the box. Derrick Etienne tried a volley. Meara saved the shot but the rebound fell to Nagbe who won the race to the ball and shot first time to score.
Columbus put the game away on 68 minutes. Zelarayán again started the attack, finding Etienne. He crossed the ball to the back post. Zardes won the ball against Kyle Duncan in the air, heading it into the air, over everyone’s head, and into the side netting.
Brian White scored on a broken play in the final minute of regular time. Tom Barlow was denied by a fantastic Eloy Room save in stoppage time. The match ended 3-2 after a hectic eight minutes of stoppage time.
— x – Columbus Crew SC (@ColumbusCrewSC) November 21, 2020
Lucas Zelarayán and the attacking core: Zelarayán had a hand in the buildup on all three goals for the Crew. Key attackers scored and got assists. The offensive core is in good form going into the second round.
Oh So Metro? RBNY were not expected to win this game. Given how the year went, this isn’t the ‘Oh So Metro’ catastrophe like years past, though there was chaos at the end that they could have capitalized on to get to extra time. Struber could end up being a good coach, but without a proven elite leader on the field, this team still just looks like a one-dimensional young team that won’t compete for trophies.
Tougher challenges next: Columbus has proven they can beat teams they are better than this year. They’ve struggled against quality opposition at times this season. Next up is the winner of Toronto FC and Nashville SC. They cannot have a drop off in the final 15 minutes against either of those teams.