Following the Crew’s frustrating setback against the New York Red Bulls this past Saturday, Ezra Hendrickson said he wanted to see how the players would respond with their “backs against the wall.”

“Man, they answered the call,” Hendrickson said.

On Wednesday night, the Crew earned an early lead and preserved it in an impressive 3-2 win over Orlando City SC at Lower.com Field. With the result, the Black & Gold remain in contention to make the 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs with two games remaining in the regular season.

“Every man to a 'T' that stepped on the pitch tonight gave it their all,” Hendrickson said after the win. “What I told them before the game was ‘Guys, give me all you got. No run is too long, no tackle is too hard to make, and if you’re down at (the) 60 or 65 (minute mark), we’ve got five subs; just raise your hand and we’ll get you out. Give us everything you got,’ and I thought they showed up tonight. I was very happy to see that.”

Miguel Berry opened the scoring for the home side in the 20th minute when he created space in the box and headed home a cross from Lucas Zelarayán. Berry now has seven goals this season, which is third on the team behind Zelarayán and Gyasi Zardes.

The Crew then doubled its lead in the 31st minute when Derrick Etienne Jr. scored his first of 2021 and first goal since the MLS Cup final last December inside Historic Crew Stadium.

Right past the half-hour mark, Zelarayán swung the ball toward the back post, where Etienne first jabbed to throw off the back-post defender and then deftly placed the ball inside the post and past Orlando goalkeeper Pedro Gallese.

Daryl Dike reduced the Orlando deficit in the 52nd minute by converting a penalty on the second attempt (the first was saved by Eloy Room, but he was off his line, forcing a retake). But then Columbus responded when Zelarayán, who already had two assists on the night, scored one of the league’s best goals of the season.

With space toward the right corner of the 18-yard box, the Argentine playmaker unleashed a corking shot toward the back post, which nipped the underside of the crossbar and into the back of the net.

“He's one of the leaders of the team, so he knows what this means for us,” Hendrickson said of Zelarayán. “He knew that he had to come out and lift this team tonight, and he did that. He answered the call. It's a big challenge that he had to face – being the top guy on the team – and he played well tonight, even defensively. Some things he did might go unnoticed to the common supporter, but we as coaches, we saw that effort that he put in.”

The Crew conceded a second goal in the second minute of stoppage time, but held out to win, 3-2, and move to within three points of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

Up next is the Club’s last road match of the season, as they play D.C. United on Saturday night at Audi Field. Following that match, the regular-season finale is Sunday, Nov. 7, when the Crew host Chicago Fire FC at Lower.com Field.

“I told them after the game that this was awesome tonight; it was a good win,” Hendrickson said. “I thought everyone played well, but now we have to head to (Washington) D.C. and get three points there also, because D.C. is also fighting for their playoff lives. It’s not going to be an easy battle, but we just have to match their intensity, and I think if we do what we did tonight, we’ll be fine.”

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