When Miguel Berry scored his first goal this season – the equalizer at FC Cincinnati on July 9 – it felt like a storybook moment, as the man who was recently loaned out, came home and saved a point for his team on the rival’s home turf.

And when Berry scored two inside two minutes against Cincinnati on Aug. 27, which snapped the losing streak and again silenced the “Hell is Real” rival, more was said about who Berry was scoring against rather than how he got himself into position to score.

But that changed Tuesday. Our expectations should change about him, too.

Because when Berry trotted onto the field in the 70th minute on Tuesday night, the Columbus Crew trailed the New York Red Bulls, 1-0, and the Black & Gold were 20 minutes away from an eighth loss in 10 games. Clinching a playoff spot wasn’t completely unrealistic, but it was also an uphill battle.

Four minutes later, however, Darlington Nagbe scored the equalizer when he followed up a parried shot and headed the ball into the south-end goal. The crowd at Lower.com Field, once silenced by trailing a match yet again, came alive.

The encouragement in part produced the most “massive” moment of the 2021 Crew season to date.

In the 87th minute, the backline won the ball and sent it to midfield, where Berry collected it and dribbled toward goal. His pass to Zelarayan, followed up by a run toward the far post, eventually allowed Berry to be in a position to recover the loose ball, round Andrew Gutman, and score the game-winning goal in a thrilling 2-1 victory over New York. 

The stadium lights flicked, the supporters roared, and, not for the first time this summer, Berry was the man leading the charge to celebrate. Berry didn’t just win the game for Columbus. He scored the goal that restored hope in the reigning MLS Cup champions, and not for the first time.

After the full-time whistle, the Nordecke chanted his name. The then 23-year-old (who turned 24 on Thursday), has transcended from fourth-string forward to the team’s second-leading goal scorer.

“I’ve never experienced people scream my name like that. It’s incredible,” Berry said after the match. “The moment in the corner is fun but honestly, as soon as that high is done, it’s just about getting the win.

“It was the kind of thing where I just wanted to win. I hate losing, I hate tying, I just want to win. You celebrate the corner, but the game is half done and especially with the way things have been going we have to fight 90 plus—I'm not sure how many minutes we played tonight but you have to play all of them and when the whistle blows in the end, then it’s time to celebrate and enjoy for five, ten minutes and then it’s the next game. You know, we are not in the position to pat ourselves on the back.”

Berry, who was a 2020 MLS SuperDraft pick, now has five goals since returning on loan in July. Of those, here’s the breakdown of what each meant at the time they were scored:

  • First goal: Tied the FCC game at 2-2 after the Crew was down, 2-0, and playing with 10 men.
  • Second goal: Scored the equalizing goal against FCC at home to make it 2-2.
  • Third goal: One minute after his second goal, he produces the game-winner when the ball deflects off his body and the Crew beat Cincinnati, 3-2.
  • Fourth goal: The Crew eventually lose to Orlando City, but his goal equalizes the game at 2-2.
  • Fifth goal: The game-winner against the Red Bulls.

Over the last 10 games, the two wins have resulted from Berry’s late goals. Of course, much of that comes from the play of his teammates, but it speaks to the young striker stepping up in the moment.

Despite being second on the team for goals scored, he’s only attempted nine shots all season. That means he’s scoring on 55 percent of all attempted shots, and only one effort that was on target didn’t result in a goal.

That won’t last forever. Eventually, he’ll need to take more shots, but those opportunities will come. As for now, he’s scoring with the limited chances he’s had, and it’s keeping the Crew’s postseason hopes alive.

“He has quality – if he didn’t have that, he wouldn’t be scoring the goals he’s scoring,” Porter said.

“He is very good in the box, very calm and he’s got technique and when we do a finishing drill, he’s one of our best finishers. But on top of that, his mentality in terms of learning, coming to work every day as a pro and trying to improve, having the right attitude, listen to the coaches, listen to the senior players. A lot of young guys don’t do that.”

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