When Cucho Hernández brilliantly finished the exquisite chip from Lucas Zelarayán to make the score 3-0 late in the first half, the match didn’t feel over against Charlotte FC, but the Columbus Crew was certainly well on its way to three points.
But then the Crew conceded two goals in two minutes near the hour mark. While still leading, momentum was fleeting and doubt started setting in around the stands at Lower.com Field.
Not on the pitch, though.
Instead, the Black & Gold produced a precise build up that sent Max Arfsten free down the right flank, only to send it into the area for Christian Ramirez to score his second goal of the game. It was the third goal in three minutes, but it gave the Crew a 4-2 lead it never lost in Saturday night’s win against Charlotte FC.
“I like when we conceded the second goal, because of what we have been through, they didn’t panic, and they found the way to score another goal,” head coach Wilfried Nancy said after the victory. “So, I can see that we are growing and am really pleased with that, knowing that again, the season is long but for the present moment, the way we finished this stretch, I am really happy for the players because they deserve it.”
The Crew earned its second win in four nights on Saturday night thanks to the club’s mentality, but also its attacking quality that continues punishing opponents.
Ramirez scored five minutes into the match when Cucho won the ball in Charlotte territory and set his teammate free for a one-on-one against goalkeeper Kristijan Kahlina.
In the 21st minute, Arfsten, a rookie starting in place of Mohamed Farsi, received the ball at the corner of the visitors’ box, dribbled in on goal, and drove the ball to the back post for his second goal of the season.
The Crew made it 3-0 from a breathtaking goal in the 43rd minute when Cucho received the ball on the right flank, then dribbled inside and passed to Lucas Zelarayán. The latter then had the presence of mind to chip the ball into the box to Cucho, who continued his run and tucked it past Kahlina.
The visitors then scored in the 56th and 58th minutes, but the Crew quickly regained momentum thanks to Ramirez’s second goal of the night to seal the win.
“We shot ourselves in the foot a little bit for the two goals and it’s a learning experience we keep talking about especially over the last couple of weeks, but it's obviously built our character,” Ramirez said. “I think if that would have happened, say 10 days ago, I think the reaction would have been a lot different. And so, I know guys like myself, Darlington [Nagbe], Steven [Moreira], Lucas, Cucho, when we're out there, it's our job to maintain that positivity when situations starts happening like that, and I think we've taken that role on very well over the last few games.”
As Ramirez said, Columbus continues to improve and resembles a club on an upward trajectory. At a time when the Black & Gold played their eighth match within a month, they still looked fresh and creative.
Saturday’s win moved the Crew up to fifth in the Eastern Conference standings with 24 points from 16 games. Additionally, the four goals moved the side to 33 total this season — the best of any club in the Eastern Conference.
“This was the last game of the stretch,” Nancy said. “Physically we are really happy and really pleased with that. Again, I really liked the spirit. We’ve been through, not a difficult moment but a tough moment in terms of the way we didn’t finish the game in the way that we were supposed to [vs. Colorado Rapids].
“We tried to figure it out, to discuss with the players to tell them certain things, to get this interaction with the players, and today, for the second game this week, they were on the same page in terms of the spirit and in terms of the desire to compete, and also the desire to find a solution.”
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