nagbe - 5.22.21

A pair of late free-kick goals from Lucas Zelarayan propelled the Columbus Crew to a 2-1 win over New York City FC on Saturday night at Red Bull Arena.

PORTER | ‘Big time result’ against NYCFC -

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The two stunning goals, including one in the 95th minute, capped an impressive performance from The Crew, who started on the ropes in the early portions of the match, later to take control, and eventually earn three points on the road for the first time since September 14, 2019. The win was also the Club’s first at NYCFC in the regular season since August 2015.

WATCH | Highlights from Crew's win over New York City FC

“(A) big time result,” head coach Caleb Porter said after the match. “They are a very good team. … For our guys to come on the road, beat that team (and) get all three points, it says a lot about our mentality. It wasn’t perfect, there’s a lot to improve on, but for sure this will help for our confidence. I said it at halftime to the broadcast: it’s all confidence.”

INTERVIEW | Caleb Porter following win over NYCFC

The Crew fell behind early after conceding an 18th-minute goal from Ismael Tajouri-Shradi, whose right-footed effort deflected off a defender and drifted into the bottom right corner of the net.

NYCFC nearly doubled the lead minutes later, but goalkeeper Eloy Room denied Valentin Castellanos from point-blank range.

WATCH | Eloy Room comes up big in the first half vs. NYCFC

The Crew took control in the second half, though, playing on the front foot to find an equalizer. One eventually came in the 82nd minute when Zelarayan unleashed a corking long-range free-kick that left U.S. Men’s National Team goalkeeper Sean Johnson planted – and even with a look of disbelief afterward.

WATCH | Lucas Zelarayan drills it from deep to equalize

The game-winner arrived with virtually the last kick of the game, as Zelarayan’s free-kick dipped over the wall and past Johnson to give The Crew its first road win in the regular season since Sept. 14, 2019 at Atlanta United FC (not including the 2020 neutral-site MLS is Back Tournament).

WATCH | Lucas Zelarayan does it again, this time with a game-winner in stoppage time

“When you look at a Lucas Zelarayan – it’s hard for me to talk to you guys without mentioning him specifically, because I’ve never seen or coached a player that scored two free-kicks in one game. The quality that he showed... even on that second goal, he looked like the Argentine Babe Ruth – he’s pointing in the corner and walking off before he even hit the ball – it was unbelievable.”

With the free-kick brace, the attacking midfielder became the first Columbus player to score two free-kicks in one match since Federico Higuain on August 25, 2012 against the New England Revolution.

While the second free-kick sealed three points for The Crew, it also felt like a momentum swing for the reigning MLS Cup champions. Entering the match with five points in as many league games, Saturday night’s performance embodied many of the 2020 results that eventually led the Club to winning its second league title.

“I’ve seen it all the time in this league in the years I’ve been here – you just need that little breakthrough, and we found it today,” Porter said. “I’m really happy for the guys. They deserve this and it’s going to help us in this next stretch of games.”

Darlington Nagbe, who also had a remarkable performance, completing 98.5% of his 57 passes, offered similar thoughts following The Crew’s road victory.

“Obviously, the results in the previous games were not the results that we wanted, but I thought there were bits and pieces that were good performances,” Nagbe said. “So, I think today in the second half, we kind of put it all together defensively (as well) in attack, in pressing and showing against a good team away from home. It is definitely a good result and I think we can build on it.”

Up next, The Crew hosts Toronto FC on Saturday, May 29 at 3 p.m. at Historic Crew Stadium. |PURCHASE TICKETS