A month ago, the Columbus Crew led the MLS Eastern Conference in goals scored, and the club’s multitude of goal scorers reiterated the team’s versatile offense.
Now, though, the team has played five matches across all competitions with a lone goal – and the goal scorer is no longer on the roster.
Things are never this simple, of course, but that surface-level view does highlight the interesting predicament the Black & Gold currently find themselves in.
On Friday afternoon, the team traded fan favorite and USMNT forward Gyasi Zardes to the Colorado Rapids. This was a big-time move, and Columbus president and general manager Tim Bezbatchenko said it was a hard decision.
“First and foremost, we want to thank Gyasi personally, as he has been an important member of the Crew and the Columbus community since joining in 2018,” Bezbatchenko said in a release. “We know Gyasi quickly became a fan favorite given all his contributions on and off the field and throughout Central Ohio and we did not take this decision lightly.
“When we think about the type of character and family we want in Columbus and in this league, Gyasi is a wonderful example of someone who fully embraced what it means to be a Crew player. He will always be a part of Crew history and our Black & Gold family.”
Zardes also made sure to write a heartfelt message to supporters:
Zardes, who joined the Crew in 2018 from the LA Galaxy, made 110 regular-season appearances and scored 54 goals, which ranks third in club history. He was also an integral piece of the 2020 MLS Cup-winning team, and he scored nine goals this past season, which was second-most on the team behind Lucas Zelarayán.
But with Zardes now in Colorado, that means Miguel Berry is the sure-fire striker for the team in the near future. That’s not to say he hasn’t been all of 2022 – he’s started all but one league match – but now he’s the main center forward for a team needing to score goals.
Through eight appearances this season, his lone goal came in the first half of the season opener against Vancouver Whitecaps FC in February.
Berry proved last year that he was more than capable of being a dangerous forward. Now that he’s not competing for minutes with Zardes, Berry’s impact has never been more important for a Black & Gold side trying to return to the postseason.
There’s also the pressure of impressing to keep his place in the starting XI for the long-term.
When head coach Caleb Porter spoke to the media following the scoreless draw against Sporting Kansas City, he highlighted Zardes’ departure means the team can recruit a third Designated Player. Currently, the only two on the roster are Darlington Nagbe and Lucas Zelarayán.
“We also know we need a few reinforcements in the attack, which was why, obviously, we opened up the DP spot,” Porter said Saturday night.
The Crew is only a few weeks removed from being the strongest attack in the conference. The only difference between then and now was that goals were going in. Now, there’s a rut.
Enough has been written about the offense needing to reclaim its aggressiveness. Perhaps this is also the time when Berry claims the starting striker role and showcases his potential – especially when Columbus needs him most.
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