As the ball fell from the sky, it felt like the whole game stopped and waiting for Darlington Nagbe’s next move. Go figure the man who often pulls the strings and dictates a match’s tempo was once again the center of attention.

Nagbe, standing 25 yards from goal, stood beneath the ball, waiting for it to drop. Then, he uncorked a full volley directed toward the bottom left corner.

This was a breathtaking goal that highlighted a rousing performance from the Columbus Crew. The Black & Gold, winless in their last five, delivered an impressive 3-0 win against D.C. United on Saturday night at Lower.com Field.

But the win felt like more than three points. It felt like mojo was back, and head coach Caleb Porter said as much after the victory.

“I thought we played extremely well today,” Porter said. “I’m proud of the guys. It's been a rough couple of weeks, in many ways. And for our group to stick together, fight, keep fighting and we're back in the race. We're back in the thick of things. I'm glad that they get the reward with a result and some goals for their hard work and for sticking together.

“We have a good group of guys in that locker room and this was an early kind of, season test, challenge, a lot of adversity and I thought the guys pulled out of it really well and I think actually we grew stronger because of it.”

While Nagbe’s 75th-minute stunner sealed the win, all three Crew goals were breathtaking.

First game a free kick from Pedro Santos that was smashed into the bottom right corner from 20 yards out to give the Portuguese left back his first goal of 2022.

Then, in the 43rd minute, Derrick Etienne Jr. scored his third of the season when he controlled a brilliant lob from Josh Williams and slotted a shot to the back post.

All three goals were top quality, and Porter said the attacking display “flipped the script” for an offense that hadn’t scored a league goal since a 1-1 draw at the New York Red Bulls on March 20.  

“Confidence is everything in this sport, and it's so delicate,” Porter said. “I've seen some of the best players and best teams in the world who go from really confident to not confident, and turning that is really difficult. And I thought for our guys to be able to turn it after three losses where we played very well, but it's about winning. We know that … I knew when we got that first goal that it would change everything.”

Captain Jonathan Mensah offered similar sentiments.

“Individually we showed up big time,” he said. “Winning our individual battles, and playing together as a team, we buckled up. You know, when we were up 2-0, we started giving up few chances but you know, we didn't break, we bent a little, but we didn't break.

“So, the mentality has changed completely because when you win, you feel different. You know, when you’re losing, you feel different; so great that we were able to change that tonight.”

With the win, the Crew moved up to fifth in the Eastern Conference standings with 12 points from nine matches. Next up is a trip to New England to face the Revolution on Saturday. The reigning Supporters’ Shield winners have 10 points from nine games and are ninth in the conference.

The Crew’s next home game at Lower.com Field is May 21 against Los Angeles Football Club, and tickets are available to see one of the marquee matchups of the season.

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