The first statement came in the opening minute when Jonathan Mensah put the Columbus Crew in front. The second came in the final seconds, when Eloy Room produced yet another world-class save to preserve a win.  

 The Columbus Crew entered Mercedes-Benz Stadium, where no visitor had won in 2022, and earned its first road victory of the season, as the Black & Gold beat Atlanta, 2-1, sending the side into the international break with positive momentum.  

 “I’m proud that the guys got rewarded for their hard work,” head coach Caleb Porter said after the result. “[They] showed a lot of heart today, a lot of fight today. It's a trademark MLS smash and grab result for us coming on the road.” 

 The Crew scored its fastest league goal in club history 57 seconds into the match when Mensah shimmied away from a defender and headed home a corner kick from Pedro Santos. It was a goal that felt identical to last season, when the Ghanaian center back scored the eventual game-winning goal from a corner.

“We started out from the opening whistle, you could see the hunger and fight,” Porter said. “That's really important for everyone to see. People can doubt us, that's normal. But we're not going to crumble … We stick together. And I think that's what the supporters want, hopefully, is that we have a group of guys that are going to keep rolling their sleeves up and fighting.”  

The visitors then doubled their lead when Erik Hurtado, who made his first start of the season, scored in the 45th minute. With play concentrated in the Crew half, Derrick Etienne Jr. had the intelligence to smash a ball across the field toward Hurtado. From there, the forward bested Alex De John in a 1-v-1 dual and slotted a shot to the back post.

But it was a Room masterclass that stole the show for Columbus, as he finished with a season-high eight saves – with each feeling more impressive than the last.  

The climax arrived five minutes into second-half stoppage time when Room denied Marcelino Moreno from long range. As the shot rocketed toward goal, Room, at full extension, pushed the ball wide with his right paw.

Atlanta was able to trim the deficit in stoppage time via a fantastic Dom Dwyer bicycle, but it wasn’t enough to dampen the mood of a Crew side that now enters the three-week international break with positive momentum.  

“I told the guys before this game that I've been in this league a long time and all it takes is one result, you know, and you turn it,” Porter said. “Everybody thinks the world's coming to an end and you get one result and all of a sudden you look up at the table and you go, ‘Oh man, we're right there.’” 

With the win, Columbus now sits ninth in the Eastern Conference with 16 points from the opening 13 games. The Black & Gold will now have a break in action and will resume play on June 18, when they host MLS newcomers Charlotte FC at Lower.com Field.   

There’s certainly to look ahead at that match, but for now, attention should be placed on Room and his teammates.  

“We’re going to keep fighting and sticking together,” Porter said. “We're a strong group, we’re an experienced group. And ultimately, this was a statement.”

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