Crew Coverage

Crew Coverage pres. by Medical Mutual | Nancy: ‘The game was a like a movie’

All Wilfried Nancy could do was smile, laugh, and clap. The Columbus Crew head coach, and everyone else inside Soldier Field, had once again witnessed the greatness of Lucas Zelarayán. 

And of course, Zelarayán made sure the Fire supporters knew it, too, as he took off his jersey and shared his name with those in attendance. 

“Lucas, bravo,” Nancy said. “You cannot describe this kind of goal, this is only quality, simple as that.”

In the 94th minute, the Armenia international looked up and launched a first-time shot — from behind the midfield line – that soared over Chicago Fire goalkeeper Spencer Richey and into the net. Game winner.

The Columbus Crew, who won a match dramatically in Chicago last year, did the same against Saturday night, when it doused the Fire in a 2-1 win to give the Black & Gold a third-straight win.

After a scoreless first half, the Crew took the lead in the 59th minute when Cucho Hernández’s long-range strike deflected off a Chicago defender and skipped into the net.

Cucho now has four goals this season, including three in his last three games. With either a goal or an assist in his last eight appearances, he’s tied Zelarayán and Jeff Cunningham for the club’s record streak. 

The visitors played with the lead, but the Fire pressed for an equalizer. One arrived in the 88th minute when Xherdan Shaqiri scored his first goal of the season, sending his teammates and the home crowd into a frenzy. 

The Crew nearly scored soon after, as Alexandru Matan slotted the ball into the net in stoppage time, but the goal was waved off due to an offside decision. Thus, it felt like Columbus watched three points decimate into one.

But then came Zelarayán’s half-field hit that traveled 60.98 yards. According to Opta, that is the third-longest goal since 2010, and it’s the longest stoppage-time winner in league history. And, according to Nancy, it’s the greatest goal one of his players has every scored.

“Yeah, yeah, for sure,” the Frenchman said. “This is the first time for me as a coach. And it's funny because in the beginning of the year I was talking with Lucas because he had a few opportunities like this and I told him, ‘Hey, try it. If this is the logical play, try it, I have no problem with that.’ And today he did it and when the ball bounced, I saw the ball and I was like, ‘he's gonna do it, he's gonna do it,’ and when he touched the ball, fabulous goal, so, I'm happy for him, I'm happy for him, I'm happy for also the good message for the team also but yeah, as a coach this is the best goal.”

A full 90 minutes were played, but it was how the final minutes transpired that will be remembered. Between the equalizer and the eventual game winner, the momentum pendulum swung back and forth, as did the emotions of everyone watching. Nancy said it was like a feature film. 

“The game was like a movie,” Nancy said. “I was really happy that the guys impressed that and were able to understand what we needed to do. And second half we were in control, in total control, but the way we were playing. Again, Cucho, yes, this is a deflection but for me, this is not by luck this is because this is the reward about what they did.

“And after that, the movie started again. So, we conceded this goal. Honestly, I didn't watch the goal so I cannot talk about it. But what I felt is, and what I saw is, the answer. Right away instead of backpedaling, they tried to score another goal … But I'm really, really proud of the way we won this game. Because we had difficult moments where the emotion, our emotions were too high. So, we lost a bit of composure at certain moments. But right away, they were able to settle into it and to stay on the task and they did it well.”

Columbus has won three-straight games and earned its second road victory of the season. The result with Chicago was the Crew’s 17th game of the season, so the Black & Gold have officially hit the midway point in the 34-game league campaign. They are sixth in the Eastern Conference with 27 points. 

“I told them, with a lot of humility, we have to be limitless,” Nancy said. “At the end of the day, I'm really happy that (Saturday) they won. To be really honest with you, I'm really, really happy (Saturday) that they won this game away. Because this is the challenge that we gave them with the staff. If we want to go far, we need to win these kinds of games. 

“I told them since the beginning that home and away, we play our game, and after that we'll see what the battle will hold. But again, if they want to be limitless, this is the way they have to do it. So, I'm really proud of that.”

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