Jonathan Mensah’s back-post header off a Lucas Zelarayan corner kick in the 65th minute helped lift the Columbus Crew to a 1-0 win over Atlanta United, spoiling the party for the crowd of 67,000-plus at Mercedes-Benz Stadium Saturday afternoon.
Zelarayan was brought on as part of a double-substitution to start the second half with the intention of making the difference and the Argentine playmaker did just that to set up the lone goal straight off the Crew’s training ground.
Marlon Hairston flicked on the near-post corner by Zelarayan and Mensah crashed in at the back post, heading it in off Anton Walkes for his first goal of the season.
The first chance of an entertaining, but scoreless first half came inside the opening two minutes when Josef Martinez, with a pair of defenders quickly converging, slipped the ball to an open Jake Mulraney on the right. But the Irish attacker’s shot was just wide of the far post.
The clearest opportunity came in the 16th minute when Bradley Wright-Phillips picked out Erik Hurtado behind the Atlanta defense following a Five Stripes corner kick. The speedy forward took a touch into the box, but fired off the outside netting.
Erik Lopez, a first-half substitute for Mulraney, put a shot on frame from 20 yards out, but Eloy Room did well to parry it away three minutes from halftime.
Speaking of Room, the Curacao international came up with a big-time performance, logging five saves in another shutout showcase.
Two of Room’s crowd-silencing saves, in particular, include a first-half opportunity where Room came out to deny the angle, followed by a second-half full-extension showcase to block a curling shot.
Martinez again played provider for Atlanta just before the hour mark, picking out Marcelino Moreno, who took a settling touch before picking out the far post. However, Room dived to his left to get a touch, as you can watch in the above highlight.
In the 78th minute, Alan Franco lost his mark in the box, but directed his potentially equalizing header wide of the target. It was the best chance of a late-match barrage by the hosts that ultimately came up empty.
The Crew hit the road again on Friday, July 30 to face New York City FC at Yankee Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. ET on Bally Sports Ohio and 97.1 FM The Fan.
GAME RECAP COURTESY COLUMBUS CREW COMMUNICATIONS