On a frigid Saturday afternoon when Lower.com Field resembled a snow globe more than a soccer stadium, the Columbus Crew attack remained hot as the Black & Gold beat Toronto FC, 2-1, to stay unbeaten through three games.
After conceding 14 minutes into the match, the Crew responded with a pair of goals from Lucas Zelarayán and Derrick Etienne Jr., to earn the club its second-straight home win to start 2022. More importantly, the victory was an example of the club seeing out a result following last week’s draw at the San Jose Earthquakes.
“I thought we learned a lot from last week,” head coach Caleb Porter said after the win. “A week ago, we were very disappointed. We talked about just using it to grow and learn and I thought we learned a lot this week. You saw at the end; we closed the game out really well and made the right subs as well. I thought was a big difference.
“We improved from the San Jose game; we gained confidence now being able to close out a game and come from behind. Listen – I thought it was a really good performance, across the board.”
Zelarayán produced the equalizer in the 56th minute when he drilled a first-time hit into the bottom right corner of the goal, giving the Armenia international his fourth goal of the season.
“Lucas is – I’ve said this since he’s been here – one of the best players in the League,” Porter said. “He’s a special player. The technique on that first goal – that is high level. The technique for him to pop that ball basically at the pace and precision that he struck that ball with – that’s world class.”
Etienne supplied the game winner nine minutes later when he volleyed a header from Jonathan Mensah past Toronto goalkeeper Alex Bono. Etienne, who recorded his second goal inside Lower.com Field this season, celebrated in style by paying tribute to former Crew teammate Bradley Wright-Phillips, who retired this past week.
“It was good to see that we went down a goal, and then were able to come back and get the win, and also close out the game, especially after what happened last week,” Etienne said. “That’s a big confidence booster and I think it’s going to help us in the long run.”
With the win in leg one of the Trillium Cup, the Crew now has seven points from its first three games of 2022. Next up is a trip to Red Bull Arena on Sunday to face the New York Red Bulls. Kickoff is set for 2 p.m.
“It’s good,” Porter said about beating Toronto. “It’s the Trillium Cup, obviously we know is a very important thing for the supporters and for us as well. It’s good to put the three points in the bank in that tournament, and obviously for our season goals, it’s great to be seven points in the first three games and again, we’re fighting for the top.
“Now we’ve got to go on the road and play a very good team in the New York Red Bulls, which will provide some very different challenges – the way that they press and play direct and get a lot of crosses in. We need a good week of training again and hopefully we can get that first three points on the road versus the Red Bulls.”