In perhaps the best performance of the season to date, the Columbus Crew put four goals past Inter Miami CF on Saturday night to secure their fifth-straight win at Lower.com Field.
Entering the match needing to win to keep playoff hopes alive, the Black & Gold battered Miami and delivered the best attacking display of 2021 while keeping a clean sheet. With the win, the club now sits four points out of the MLS Cup Playoffs with five games remaining in the regular season.
But following Saturday night's key win, the playoff picture wasn’t the only thing on the minds of supporters and players inside Lower.com Field.
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For head coach Caleb Porter, he earned his 100th regular-season win and became one of only two active coaches in the league who has as many wins and two MLS Cup titles.
"One hundred wins and all that and guess what, I don’t win anything without good players and a good staff. It’s that simple,” Porter said.
“I’ve been very fortunate to be with two excellent clubs with very good players, and I’m proud of the fact that I won a trophy at both of those clubs, but I do this for the players. It’s all about them. I’m a good coach with good players and a bad coach with bad players. It’s that simple."
The Crew opened the scoring in the 39th minute when Pedro Santos struck a pinpoint cross into the box, where Gyasi Zardes was in a position to flick the ball past Miami goalkeeper Nick Marsman.
Four minutes later, Darlington Nagbe won possession midway through the Miami half and dribbled toward goal. Once he found space in the box, Nagbe had an open shot, but opted to slot the ball to a wide-open Santos, who doubled the club's lead just before halftime.
The Santos-Zardes connection continued in the second half, when the duo combined for the third goal. After Vito Wormgoor played a deep ball down the right flank, Santos ran it down and played a one-time cross into the box. There, Zardes climbed over a Miami defender and guided the ball into the net, securing the forward’s 10th regular-season brace since he joined the Black & Gold.
The final goal was an own goal from Leandro González Pirez after Miguel Berry played a ball into the box and the Miami center back guided it into his own goal.
“We had a simple mindset coming into the game to win the next game,” Porter said. “I think the guys were very professional in their performance how they executed, and it started with the work rate that they had. When you have a group of 11 guys that roll their sleeves up and work and fight and are organized, play hard, play smart, play together, good things happen.
“It's one of our strongest lineups we’ve had in a long time, I think that showed, when we get that game model going the way we want it to go, it’s pretty hard to stop. I think you saw that with the four goals, the clean sheet, the pressing, the possessing, the tempo, it was all clicking today.”
With the win, the Crew remains in 10th in the Eastern Conference but are only four points away from CF Montréal.
Next up is a midweek match in Tennessee as the Crew plays Nashville SC on Wednesday night. Nashville is currently the second seed in the Eastern Conference.