As the full-time whistle chirped on Saturday night, a big smile cast across Wilfried Nancy’s face as he clapped, then celebrated with his coaches and players. There’s nothing more the Columbus Crew head coach could ask for.
Columbus Crew 6, Atlanta United FC 1.
Not only did the Black & Gold batter Atlanta and give the visitors their biggest loss in club history, but the Crew produced their biggest win in 20 years – all backed by a youthful, energetic performance.
“(We have to) stay focused on the task, that is the most important thing, and they did it well,” Nancy said. “The idea (against Atlanta) was to keep pushing and also to control the offensive transition … this is the idea, to always provoke and attack the box. It worked, and we are all happy.”
Lower.com Field was the scene of a breakout party of sorts, as multiple players recorded their firsts – first goal, first appearance – and the club recorded its first six-goal game since Oct. 26, 2003.
Aidan Morris’ first MLS goal gave the Crew an early lead after 14 minutes when he continued a run and headed home a deflected cross past Brad Guzan.
The Crew continued pressing and searching for a second goal the rest of the half, but the score line remained unchanged. Christian Ramirez doubled the lead in the 47th minute, though, when he scored his first of two goals in his Crew debut.
Jacen Russell-Rowe received the ball on the left flank, then crossed it into the box, where Ramirez one-timed it to the back post, scoring the Crew’s first of five goals in front of The Nordecke.
Rookie center back Philip Quinton joined the party in the 51st minute when his thumping header from an Alex Matan corner added a third goal for Columbus.
Ramirez scored his second of the night in the 64th minute when a perfect through ball from Steven Moreira set the forward up in the box. Ramirez then took a touch and guided the ball to the near post.
Goal number five arrived four minutes later when Russell-Rowe scored his first Crew goal. The first two Crew 2 players to sign MLS contracts – Russell-Rowe and Mohamed Farsi – connected when Farsi crossed it to Russell-Rowe, who coolly slotted the ball into the net.
The final goal came from Max Arfsten, who made his MLS debut. The SuperDraft pick entered the game in the 82nd and scored nine minutes later when Will Sands made a great run down the left, then passed it into the box toward Arfsten to punish Atlanta once more.
“First of all, I was just happy to get my debut,” Arfsten said after his goal. “When the moment happened, it was pretty surreal for me. Once I saw it hit the back of the net, I was just super happy. It was nice to share that moment with my teammates as well. It was a really good feeling.”
Columbus’ performance was an inspiring one, as the younger players made an impact and helped guide the club up to fifth in the Eastern Conference standings with seven points from five games.
“This is a dynamic collective. This is the process,” Nancy said. “The way we train, we train all the players with a good intensity and with a really good spirit. They are able to accept the challenge and push the boundaries. They showed that they are also able to do it in a consistent way in the game. That’s why we scored. I believe in my players… (this) was a reward for that effort because they deserved it.”
When the match ended, there were four Crew Academy products on the pitch together. There were two SuperDraft picks on the score sheet. There was also Patrick Schulte back in goal for his second MLS appearance – and he nearly earned a clean sheet.
On Saturday night, it wasn’t about who was unavailable and didn’t play. It was about who was there playing and how they played. Turns out the young guys could score the most goals of any Crew side in two decades.
“I told them to enjoy the game and do what you usually do doing practice,” Nancy said. “Just be consistent and this is what they did.”
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