To commemorate the fourth competitive installment of the Hell Is Real rivalry, the Columbus Crew hung four goals on FC Cincinnati in a 4-0 cakewalk victory in their Covid Cup opener. It was an enjoyable middle-of-the-night demonstration of scoreboard distancing.
It’s only fitting that the game kicked off at 11:24pm EDT, as FC Cincinnati played soccer the like the farcical “there HAS to be a better way” vignettes in a late-night informercial.
VOICE OVER ANNOUNCER: “Are you TIRED of blasting free kicks directly into your own players?”
FC CINCINNATI: (Blasting a free kick directly into their own player.) “There HAS to be a better way!”
I’m still not over that Zelarayan free kick. When he lined up, I thought there was no way he was going to shoot. It was a right-footed shot from an angle well outside the right post. I figured the amount of swerve it would take would make the chances slim to none, and Slim left town. But then so did None. And the moment Zelarayan’s foot struck the ball, WTF and OMFG arrived in their place.
Columbus fans have been blessed with the likes of Robert Warzycha, Guillermo Barros Schelotto, and Federico Higuain over the years, but that strike from Zelarayan may have been the most jaw-dropping free kick goal in Columbus Crew history.
Last August, Gyasi Zardes incomprehensibly missed a stoppage-time sitter that would have given the Crew a 3-2 win in the first MLS version of Hell Is Real. Standing at his locker, Zardes made no excuses and said you just need to put it out of your mind and concentrate on the next one.
Two weeks later, he scored two first-half goals in Cincinnati as the Crew coasted to a 3-1 road win. On Saturday/Sunday, in his next meeting with FC Cincinnati, he made it 2-0 when he calmly finished a golden opportunity when the Cincy back line was more of a back squiggle, keeping Zardes onside behind his defenders and allowing him to go one-on-one versus the goalkeeper.
Then, in the second half, a perfect run and a perfect cross from Zelarayan led to a perfect left-footed volley into the side netting.
Cincy’s lucky point at MAPFRE Stadium last August has ultimately proven costly. It’s nearly a year later and they are still paying for it, with humiliating interest. Zardes has been ruthlessly efficient in front of the goal and the Crew have outscored Cincy 7-1 since that moment.
Oh, and the Crew made it 4-0 on another side-netting finish. This one was from Youness Mokhtar, who capped what felt like a five-minute hockey power play for the Crew by calmly bending the ball into the goal while under no pressure at all inside Cincy’s box.
Thus endeth the Golazo-ing. And Cincinnati’s season.
A cool moment took place during a substitution that spilled over between the 76th and 77th minutes. In the 76th minute, homegrown player Aiden Morris entered the match to make his Crew debut. As the clock rolled into the 77th minute, Sebastian Berhalter did likewise.
Berhalter’s entrance put him in unique company as he became only the second player in club history to be part of a multi-generational player/coach combo. Berhalter’s father, Gregg, coached the Crew from 2014-2018.
The Berhalters joined the Warzcyhas in this exclusive club. Robert Warzycha played for the Crew from 1996-2002, was interim head coach in 2005, and head coach from 2009-2013. His son, Konrad, played for the Crew in 2013.
The Warzychas remain the only mutli-generational players in Crew history, but with Sebastian signing with the first team and now making his debut, the Berhalter family will continue making a multi-generational contribution to the Black & Gold.
With substitutes Berhalter, Morris, and Aboubacar Keita all on the field, I saw a tweet wondering if three homegrowns on the field at once was a Crew record. It is not.
On August 24, 2013, the Crew had four homegrowns in the starting lineup! Goalkeeper Matt Lampson, defender Chad Barson, and midfielders Wil Trapp and Ben Speas all started in a 4-0 loss at Real Salt Lake. On two other occasions that season, a 3-0 win vs. Chicago on September 21 and a 3-2 loss at New England on October 19, that same quartet of homegrowns all shared the field at the same time at some point in the match.
A follow-up tweet mentioned that Ohio native Josh Williams was also on the field with the homegrowns, so I was happy to share the Crew record for Ohioans simultaneously on the field is six. There have been two occasions in which more than half the players on the Black & Gold side of the field were Ohioans.
On July 7, 2013, the Crew had six Ohioans in the starting lineup. They were Matt Lampson, Chad Barson, Josh Williams, Danny O’Rourke, Wil Trapp, and Konrad Warzycha. Homegrown player Ben Speas was in the 18 that day and somehow didn’t make it onto the field, much to my chagrin.
Then, in the aforementioned game at Real Salt Lake with four homegrown starters, there were six Ohioans in the starting lineup again. It was Lampson, Barson, Williams, O’Rourke, Trapp, and Speas all simultaneously on the field for the Crew.
BUT I WAS WRONG.
TECHNICALLY, the record for Ohioans on the field for the Crew at the same time IS NOT six.
For a grand total of ONE OFFICIAL BOX SCORE MINUTE in that August 24, 2013 game at Real Salt Lake, the Crew had SEVEN Ohioans on the field at once.
As mentioned, Lampson, Barson, Williams, O’Rourke, Trapp, and Speas started that game.
In the 62nd minute, Konrad Warzycha subbed in for Jairo Arrieta.
In the 63rd minute, Danny O’Rourke was subbed out for Tony Tchani.
TECHNICALLY, for ONE MINUTE, the Crew’s lineup had SEVEN Ohioans.
However, like the Morris and Berhalter substitutions, the process of introducing a pair of subs crossed a minute marker. Warzycha entered the field in the 62nd minute during the first substitution and O’Rourke came off the field in the 63rd minute in the second substitution. The ball was never in play while all seven Ohioans were in the lineup.
But still. It TECHNICALLY happened where the Crew had seven Ohioans in the lineup in the 62nd minute at Real Salt Lake on August 24, 2013.
And regardless of the technicality, seven Ohioans playing in a game for the Crew is the all-time club record.
I will close with an interesting question posed by Crew fan and major #SaveTheCrew figure John Zidar. He wanted to know if people who are opposed to Covid Cup would be watching the games, and if so, how do you reconcile that action with your beliefs?
That’s a very fair question.
If it were up to me, this tournament would not be happening right now. America (and most certainly Florida) is in a much different situation now than when the tournament was originally planned. As much as I love watching Crew games, I’d much rather have the players, coaches, and staff be safely at home with their families than flying into a Covid-19 hot zone to play games for my own entertainment. If MLS called off the tournament tomorrow, I would be relieved.
But on the other hand, the fact that the players, coaches, and staff are down there in their bubble in a Covid hot zone, it would also seem like a waste for it all to be in vain. If they went down there and put themselves through all that stress in less than ideal conditions, and then it was all for nothing, that seems unfair too.
If they are going to go down there and do it, they should at least know they are appreciated. I can wish they were not there and still watch them so their efforts are not wasted.
And maybe that’s the wrong approach. I’m not saying I’m right. But whether or not I watch, this unique tournament at this unique moment in time will be happening unless or until it isn’t, which will be due to the spread of the virus, not the number of eyeballs. The players being down there is happening regardless. So I will watch in the hopes it helps them, whether fans watching offers emotional support to them in the moment or whether fans watching perhaps helps the players economically down the road by lessening financial damage to the league.
If I were in the charge of MLS, the players would not be down there. But they are, so I support them.
The players, coaches, and staff of the Columbus Crew gave all of us one hell of an entertaining gift last night. I have no qualms about letting them know how much we appreciate the joy they delivered to those of us who stayed up all night to watch them do it.
My new book “A Massive Collection, Volume 1” is now available!
Also, for those who like to support local businesses, signed paperback copies are available at Prologue Bookshop in the Short North.