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August 2018
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Crew SC spoils home opener for defending MLS champion Toronto FC with 2-0 win

(courtesy MLS)

 

Columbus Crew SC opened the 2018 Major League Soccer regular season against the same team that ended its 2017 playoff run: the eventual MLS Cup champion Toronto FC. But Saturday’s season opener flipped the script on the current champions, thanks to a dominant defensive performance and goals by midfielder Federico Higuain and offseason addition Gyasi Zardes.

Columbus Crew SC opened the 2018 Major League Soccer regular season against the same team that ended its 2017 playoff run: the eventual MLS Cup champion Toronto FC. But Saturday’s season opener flipped the script on the current champions, thanks to a dominant defensive performance and goals by midfielder Federico Higuain and offseason addition Gyasi Zardes.

The two 2017 Eastern Conference finalists collided again at BMO Field in Toronto in a match that favored the hosts on paper. Entering Saturday, Crew SC has gone 1-3-1 against Toronto.

Chances came early for the Black & Gold, beginning in just the third minute when midfielder Cristian Martinez broke through the Reds’ backline from the right side, blazing his cross just ahead of and over Zardes’ run. After a succession of corner kicks in the ninth and 10th minutes, Martinez again sprinted into the Toronto 18-yard box, this time to ring his shot off the post. Pedro Santosadded another shot in the 27th minute.

In his 150th MLS regular-season appearance, Higuain scored his 49th goal with Columbus — the first goal of the entire 2018 MLS season, and the eventual game-winner. Midfielder Artur connected with an end-line-bound Milton Valenzuela, who crossed the knee-high ball onto Higuain’s volleying boot.

The assist marks Valenzuela’s MLS and Crew SC debut.

Just 52 seconds into the second half, Zardes continued his out-of-this-world form by opening his Crew SC account off a perfectly timed and weighted ball by Santos. The Portuguese midfielder picked up the ball on the midfield line before charging forward and threading Toronto’s centerbacks from 40 yards away. Zardes surged onto the entry ball and 1-touched it passed Alex Bono.

The majority of Toronto’s possession and chances came in the second half as they pushed for goals, but Zack Steffen and the Crew SC backline scrambled to safety throughout.

Columbus Crew SC opened the 2018 Major League Soccer regular season against the same team that ended its 2017 playoff run: the eventual MLS Cup champion Toronto FC. But Saturday’s season opener flipped the script on the current champions, thanks to a dominant defensive performance and goals by midfielder Federico Higuain and offseason addition Gyasi Zardes.

The two 2017 Eastern Conference finalists collided again at BMO Field in Toronto in a match that favored the hosts on paper. Entering Saturday, Crew SC has gone 1-3-1 against Toronto.

Chances came early for the Black & Gold, beginning in just the third minute when midfielder Cristian Martinez broke through the Reds’ backline from the right side, blazing his cross just ahead of and over Zardes’ run. After a succession of corner kicks in the ninth and 10th minutes, Martinez again sprinted into the Toronto 18-yard box, this time to ring his shot off the post. Pedro Santosadded another shot in the 27th minute.

TEAM NOTES

  • Midfielder Federico Higuain registered his first goal of the 2018 MLS regular season in Saturday’s match against Toronto FC. The Argentine volleyed a ball past Toronto’s Alex Bono in the 44th minute after receiving a cross from Milton Valenzuela to give the Black & Gold a 1-0 lead and, ultimately, three points. Since joining the club in 2012, Higuain has registered 49 goals and 49 assists in regular-season action. Should he score one more goal or provide one more assist in regular-season action, he would become the first player in Crew SC history to record 50 of each. Additionally, with his start in today’s match, Federico Higuain reached 150 regular-season appearances (145 starts), tying Ethan Finlay for ninth place in Crew SC’s list of most regular-season appearances in club history.
  • Forward Gyasi Zardes scored in his regular-season debut for Crew SC during Saturday’s match, as he tallied the second goal for the Black & Gold in the 46th minute after receiving a pass from midfielder Pedro Santos. Zardes played the entire 90 minutes, registering three shots (one on target) and scoring one goal. The strike marked Zardes’s 35th goal in MLS regular-season action since he joined the League in 2013. Since 2013, he has made 132 regular-season appearances (117 starts).
  • Crew SC’s Young Designated Player, defender Milton Valenzuela, made his first regular-season appearance for Crew SC and in MLS in Saturday’s match against Toronto FC. The Argentine started for the Black & Gold, providing the assist on Federico Higuain’s 44th-minute goal, a game-winning assist. Valenzuela also played 90 minutes, making 45 passes, registering two tackles and tallying one shot (one on target) while helping Crew SC earn a 2-0 win over the Reds. Valenzuela joined Crew SC in January of this year as the first Young Designated Player in club history.
  • Midfielder Wil Trapp made his 125th regular-season start (128th appearance) in Saturday’s 2-0 win over Toronto FC. The Black & Gold captain led the Black & Gold with 67 passes, created three goal-scoring opportunities, registered five tackles and got 81 touches on the ball. Trapp’s three goal-scoring chances tied Cristian Martinez for the most goal-scoring chances created for the Black & Gold in today’s match.
  • Midfielder Artur made his 25th regular-season appearance (20th start) for the Black & Gold in Saturday’s match at BMO Field. The Brazilian provided a secondary assist on Federico Higuain’s goal in the 44th minute, as he played a long ball to Milton Valenzuela who then crossed the ball to Higuain. In addition to providing a secondary assist, Artur played the full 90 minutes, making 64 passes, registering one shot and making eight tackles, more than anyone on either team.
  • Rookie midfielder Luis Argudo made his regular-season debut for the Black & Gold and MLS debut in Saturday’s match against Toronto, coming in as a substitute for Pedro Santos in the 77th minute. Argudo, who was selected in the Third Round of the 2018 MLS SuperDraft, played 13 minutes, making four passes and getting six touches on the ball.
  • Zack Steffen recorded his 10th regular-season shutout in MLS action in Saturday’s 2-0 win over Toronto FC. The goalkeeper made two saves and claimed two crosses en route to earning his first clean sheet of the 2018 MLS regular season.
  • Saturday’s match was Crew SC’s 32nd regular-season all-time match against Toronto FC. With the win, Columbus brings its regular-season record against Toronto to 14-8-10. Additionally, in all-time regular-season matches, Crew SC has outscored the Reds 47-42 dating back to 2007.
  • With the win in Saturday’s match, Crew SC brings its 2018 regular-season record to 1-0-0. Next up, Crew SC hosts the Montreal Impact at MAPFRE Stadium for the first of two regular-season meetings this year on Saturday, March 10 (1:00 p.m. ET / ABC-6, Spectrum Sports, BCSN2, CD102.5 FM, English radio stream and Spanish audio broadcast available on ColumbusCrewSC.com).

POSTGAME QUOTE SHEET

GREGG BERHALTER – SPORTING DIRECTOR & HEAD COACH

How did you view your performance today?

I thought it was good. Our guys were confident and overall it was a good game. They had an edge on us from a fitness standpoint and you saw that from the 70th minute on they kind of took over but overall the guys were poised and we played well.

How important was that first goal in the 44th minute to get into halftime with the lead?

Yeah because we had some chances and it was nice to go into halftime with the lead and the guys got confidence from that and we carries it over to the 2nd half.

You said a few times this week that come 3 p.m. this Saturday you’d have a better idea of where you stand so where do you stand?

What I noticed from the group was that they were calm. They were calm about the performance and that’s good. We know were not a finished product and we’re gonna get better so that’s good.

WIL TRAPP – MIDFIELDER & CAPTAIN

Thoughts on the game.

I thought we played really well. From a possession standpoint from creating chances and defensively playing agile I thought was excellent. Then we got that goals to end the first half and start the second half and we lost a little bit after that but the ability to see it through in this tough environment was key.

1st half it was evident that you guys weren’t gonna sit back today. How important was it to be aggressive not only in the 1st half but at the start of the second as well?

We had the wind to start the game and that helped us a lot to build out of the back. Defensively we won some balls in good spots and we transitioned well but I thought our collective defending and attacking was really on point.

This is the first time you’ve started the season with a win since 2014, does having 3 points to start the season put you ahead from previous years.

It’s hard to win games, it’s hard to win games on the road especially against the def ending champs. Being better away is something we’re trying to focus on this year. Being away and scoring 2 goals and getting the shutout, and a win is a great start.

PEDRO SANTOS – MIDFIELDER

How do you think you did today?

We did a great job, everybody knew what to do today and I’m very happy with this first win and to start the season this way.

On Zardes’ goal to start the 2nd half, what did you see on that play?

We saw on video that when he’s 1-on-1 with the centerback, I know where he’ll go so I put the ball there and he went and got it.

Coach said that at halftime he told you guys to press and get that second goal. How important was that goal right after halftime for you?

We knew that Toronto would press and try to score a goal so I think the second goal almost killed the game and for us it gave us more confidence for the final 45 minutes

Website: ColumbusCrewSC.com | Twitter: @ColumbusCrewSC | Instagram: @ColumbusCrewSC | Hashtag: #CrewSC | Facebook.com/columbuscrewsc | Snapchat: ColumbusCrewSC | Google+: +columbuscrewsc | Stadium: MAPFRE Stadium | Training Facility: Crew SC Training Center at Obetz

ABOUT COLUMBUS CREW SC
Columbus Crew SC (Soccer Club) is the first club in Major League Soccer and in 2015, Crew SC was crowned MLS Eastern Conference Champions in the organization’s 20th season. Owned and operated by Precourt Sports Ventures (PSV), it won its first MLS Cup championship in 2008 and also won the 2002 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup as well as MLS Supporters’ Shield titles in 2004, 2008 and 2009. The 2018 campaign is the Black & Gold’s 20th season at historic MAPFRE Stadium – the first soccer-specific stadium in the United States. The club was purchased by PSV on July 29, 2013 as part of the privately held investment and management firm’s sports and entertainment business enterprise, and the club has qualified for the MLS Cup Playoffs in three of the four seasons since, including winning the Eastern Conference Championship in 2015. orts and entertainment business enterprise.

GAME RECAP WRITTEN BY AND COURTESY OF COLUMBUS CREW SC COMMUNICATIONS