By the time head coach Caleb Porter walked through the bowels of Lower.com Field into his post-match press conference, there hasn’t much left for him to say. The team’s performance spoke for itself.
The Columbus Crew entered Saturday afternoon’s match hoping to generate momentum to jumpstart the league campaign. The Black & Gold achieved that – and more – as they topped 10-men Vancouver Whitecaps FC, 4-0, in their 2022 MLS season opener.
From the opening whistle, the Crew played with energy and precision offensively while preventing Vancouver, a club that made the postseason last year, from registering a shot on target.
“I’m very pleased,” Porter said after the win. “I thought we came out with passion and intensity, but it was in a controlled way – in an organized way, and that was very important … I thought we were very professional, and we executed extremely well. We had the right type of energy, which allowed us to have the right type of execution.”
Miguel Berry uncorked the “Crewsmas” festivities in the eighth minute when he received a ball from Lucas Zelarayán at the top of the box, then turned and struck the ball at goal, which pinballed through the Whitecaps defense toward the bottom right corner.
Then in the 25th minute, the two starting wingers – Derrick Etienne Jr. and Yaw Yeboah – connected to double the Columbus lead. Standing on the right flank, Yeboah whipped a cross-field pass to Etienne, who then took a touch and coolly slotted home his first goal of the season.
The Crew then produced two goals in as many minutes late in the match when Luis Díaz added the third in the 84th minute and Zelarayań slalomed through the Whitecaps to score the team’s fourth in the 86th minute.
“All credit to the players – 100 percent credit to the players,” Porter said. “They came to play today. I’ve been telling you guys that this is a good team. I’ve been telling you that this is a team that is going to be hungry, a team that has chemistry, a team that can score goals, and I think on this day we showed that. It doesn’t mean we’ll do it next week automatically, it’s just one step.”
But it was an important step, not just for the attacking players, but because of who made an impact Saturday afternoon. Artur, who missed the bulk of 2021 battling injuries, made his Lower.com Field debut and delivered a stirring performance across 69 minutes. His replacement was Aidan Morris, who never played a league match in 2021 due to a torn ACL. Their returns to the midfield were encouraging and productive.
Defensively, Eloy Room didn’t have much to do, which spoke to the effort of his new backline. The Jonathan Mensah-Miloš Degenek center back pairing kept Vancouver quiet. Pedro Santos and Steven Moreira also showed their quality on the outside.
Winning convincingly in late February won’t define what’s in store for the Crew this season, but it was the perfect start for a club chasing its third trophy in as many seasons.
Before the match, a massive tifo hang in The Nordecke reading, “THE ASCENT STARTS TODAY.” The scene was Crew Cat looking up at three whitecaps and three golden stars.
This is only the beginning, but with more performances like this, the Crew will be taking supporters on a memorable journey.