Mr. Numbers Nerd: Crew’s firehose of firsts vs ATL

Saturday night’s Columbus Crew match against Atlanta United seemed like it would be a less than scintillating affair. After all, between injuries and international callups, the Crew would be without their two headlining, goal-producing attractions, Cucho Hernandez and Lucas Zelarayan, as well as starting center back Milos Degenek and starting goalkeeper Eloy Room. But the losses cut both ways, as Atlanta would be without World Cup champion Thiago Almada, who had produced four goals and four assists in the first four games of the season, as well as multiple other starters, plus off-the-bench weapon and Massive Champion Derrick Etienne Jr. Nothing about this game seemed like it would be remarkable.

Then all kinds of historical hell broke loose.


First, here are the basics of what happened.

The Crew took a 1-0 in lead in the 14th minute on a goal by Aidan Morris. A deflected pass into the box popped into the air and Morris was there to run onto it and propel a diving header into the net. As a 19-year-old who was the youngest starter in MLS Cup history, Morris utterly destroyed the defending champion Seattle Sounders in MLS Cup 2020. His legacy is secure. He doesn’t need to score goals. But he’s been talking with increasing frequency about his desire to score his first MLS goal, and then he went out there and scored it. Okay, cool. Everyone was overjoyed for him. At least something notable came out of this seemingly unremarkable matchup.

Even at halftime, nobody could have known that a torrent of history would soon be unleashed. A firehose of firsts.

47th minute:  Alexandru Matan played a diagonal through ball to Jacen Russell-Rowe at the left edge of the penalty area. JRR played a centering pass to the middle of the 18, where Christian Ramirez one-time it into the net. Oh, hey! This was Ramirez’s first Crew appearance, so he became the 19th Crew player to score in his competitive debut for the club, and the 17th player to score in his first league match for the club. Neat-o.

51st minute: Matan delivered a corner kick into the center of the box, where 6’6” center back Philip Quinton, looking like a Chad Marshall deepfake, towered over the defense and headed it home to give the Crew a 3-0 lead. Hmm. That was also Quinton’s first goal in a Crew uniform, and like Morris, it was the first of his MLS career. Well isn’t that grand.

64th minute: Ramirez scored again, this time converting a through ball played by Steven Moreira. Ramirez became only the second player to score twice in his competitive debut for the Crew, tying the mark set by Brian McBride on… APRIL 13, 1996. Yes, we had just seen something that hadn’t happened in Crew history since literally GAME ONE. Well how about that.

68th minute: Matan played Mo Farsi into the right channel, and he cut back a pass to the top of the 18-yard box where Jacen Russell-Rowe one-timed a shot into the side netting. Guess what? It was his first career MLS goal. Jeepers. What is going on.

91st minute: Will Sands roasted the Atlanta defense up the left side, then played a ball in the box to Max Arfsten, who opened up his hips and deftly one-timed a shot into the far side netting. And, as if you couldn’t guess by now, that was his first career MLS goal. In his first Crew appearance. That means he became the 20th player in Crew history to score in his competitive debut for the club and the 18th to score in his first league match with the Crew. And he did it just 44 minutes after Ramirez did. I can’t even.

On the night, that made for a substantial number of players elevating from the Danny O’Rourke level of the Crew and/or MLS goalscoring list to a minimum of the William Hesmer level.

When the final whistle blew, Columbus had delivered a 6-1 victory to the hometown faithful. Not only that, they put on a show that rewrote the record books. I was trying my best to keep up with things and disseminate information on twitter in real time, but it was getting to be impossible. I’d be digging into one thing when the next thing would happen. It was chaos.

After a night of full research and to catch my breath, here’s a Mr. Numbers Nerd look at all that transpired at the LDC Death Star on Saturday night.



Brian McBride 2x (4/13/96), Pete Marino (4/13/96), Thomas Dooley (6/21/97), Ante Razov (4/2/05), Eric Vasquez (7/16/05), Kei Kamara (4/1/06), Ned Grabavoy (5/13/06), Ivan Becerra (USOC 7/12/06), Steven Lenhart (USOC 5/27/08), Dominic Oduro (3/2/13), Christian Martinez (6/1/16), Marshall Hollingsworth (USOC 6/15/16), Niko Hansen (3/25/17), Gyasi Zardes (3/3/18), Mike Grella (4/28/18), Lucas Zelarayan (3/1/20), Cucho Hernandez (7/9/22), Jimmy Medranda (3/11/23), Christian Ramirez (3/25/23), Max Arfsten (3/25/23)


The same list as above, minus the U.S. Open Cup goals by Becerra, Lenhart, and Hollingsworth, but with the addition of Leandre Griffit, who scored in his Crew regular season debut on July 24, 2010, but had earlier appeared in a U.S. Open Cup match as his competitive debut.


1. Brian McBride, 4/13/96, with goals in the 29th and 86th minutes in a 4-0 win vs. D.C. United.

2. Christian Ramirez, 3//25/23, with goals in the 47th and 64th minutes in a 6-1 win vs. Atlanta United.

The next person to accomplish this feat will surely do it against Minnesota United.

Christian Ramirez celebrates one of his historic goals. (Photo courtesy of Columbus Crew)


Per Opta, Ramirez has scored in his club debut for Minnesota United, the Houston Dynamo, and now the Crew. He is the fifth player to score in his club debut for three different MLS teams, joining Roy Lassiter, Ante Razov, Kenny Cooper, and Kei Kamara. (Granted, Kamara has had ten different cracks at it.)

Of those five instances, the Crew are involved with three of them, In addition, to Ramirez’s goal Saturday night, Razov scored in his Crew debut on April 2, 2005, and Kamara scored in his Crew debut on April 1, 2006.


This year, Jimmy Medranda, Christian Ramirez, and Max Arfsten have scored in their Crew debuts. Only one other season has seen three Crew player score in their competitive debut for the club. That was 2006, when Kei Kamara, Ned Grabavoy, and Ivan Becerra (USOC) did it.

However, in terms of league play only, 2023 marks the very first time three players have scored in their first league match with the Crew. The previous record of two had been accomplished in 1996 (McBride and Marino), 2005 (Razov and Vasquez), 2006 (Kamara and Grabavoy) and 2018 (Zardes and Grella.)


With Morris, Quinton, Russell-Rowe, and Arfsten all scoring their first MLS goals, this was obviously and unquestionably a Crew record. However, I was curious how that related to league history, so I inquired with the ever-helpful Will Glenn at MLS HQ. He wrote back to confirm that no other MLS team had accomplished the feat after 1996, which was excluded because everyone was scoring their first MLS goals that year.

So that right there is an awe-insipring accomplishment.

But then I became curious about 1996, so for fun, I did some manual research and here are the three prior instances where an MLS team had four different players score their first MLS goal in the same game.

1. Kansas City, 5/2/96, in a 6-4 win vs. Columbus. (Mark Chung, Mo Johnston 2x, Preki 2x, Mike Sorber) NOTE: Like Columbus on Saturday, they got six combined goals from players who had entered the game with zero career goals for the club.

2. Colorado, 5/5/96, in a 4-0 win vs. Dallas. (Scott Benedetti, Steve Trittschuh, Chris Henderson, Richard Sharpe)

3. Dallas, 6/23/96, in a 4-1 win at New England. (Lawrence Lozzano, Richard Farrar, Mark Santel, Brian Haynes)

And now…

4. Columbus, 3/25/23, in a 6-1 win vs. Atlanta. (Aidan Morris, Philip Quinton, Jacen Russell-Rowe, Max Arfsten)

Jacen Russell-Rowe is pumped after his contribution to the Crew’s first-time-scorer-fest. (Photo courtesy of Columbus Crew)


How many times in MLS history has a team had five different players score their first goal for a club in the same game? That would be never. As in never ever never ever never ever. Not even in 1996, with its blank slate advantage. Not then, not ever. Until Saturday night at the LDC Death Star.


Lost in all the goal scoring hype was another sneaky fun fact. Alexandru Matan entered the match with just one career MLS assist in 38 career appearances. Naturally, on Saturday, in appearance number 39, he became just the fifth player in Crew history to log an assist hat trick in league play. Because of course he did.

Matan joins Ansil Elcock (4/18/98), Robert Warzycha (8/18/99), Dante Washington (6/24/00), and Federico Higuain (9/23/17) in accomplishing the feat in MLS play.

The Crew have also had two assist hat tricks in the playoffs (Elcock 9/30/98 and Guillermo Barros Schelotto in MLS Cup 2008 on 11/23/08), as well we two more in the U.S. Open Cup (Jeff Cunningham 8/6/03 and Sebastian Rozental on 7/12/2006.)

Now, just a year after being exiled from the Crew to his native Romania on loan, Matan is in the company of many Crew legends by logging an impressively historic accomplishment.

Alexandru Matan delivers a corner kick on his way to three historic assists on the night. (Photo courtesy of Columbus Crew)


Saturday marked the fourth time the Crew have ever scored six goals in a league match.

1. August 8, 1998. 6-1 win vs. New England. Goals by Jason Farrell, Stern John 2x, Brian McBride, Thomas Dooley, Rob Smith.

2. June 16, 2001: 6-1 vs. Tampa Bay. Goals by Dante Washington 3x, Jeff Cunningham 2x, Mike Duhaney.

3. October 26, 2003: 6-2 vs. Chicago. Goals by Brian McBride 2x, Jeff Cunningham, Edson Buddle 2x, Freddy Garcia.

And now…

4. March 25, 2023: 6-1 vs. Atlanta. Goals by Aidan Morris, Christian Ramirez 2x, Philip Quinton, Jacen Russell-Rowe, Max Arfsten


Saturday also marked the fourth time the Crew have ever won a league match by five goals. In addition to the three 6-1 victories referenced above, they also beat D.C. United 5-0 on October 25, 2015. The Crew got goals in that game from Jack McInerney, Justin Meram, Ethan Finlay 2x, and Aaron Schoenfeld.


If nine Crew players registering a goal or assist seems like a lot, that’s because it is. In fact, on Saturday night, the Crew tied the club record for such astonishing breadth of scoresheet distribution, which had been accomplished on two other occasions. Here are the three times the Crew managed to get nine different players on the scoresheet…

August 8, 1998. 6-1 win vs New England:

Jason Farrell (G), Ansil Elcock (2A), Stern John (2G), Robert Warzycha (2A), Brian McBride (G,A), Thomas Dooley (G), Andy Williams (A), Rob Smith (G), Scott Cannon (A)

October 25, 2015. 5-0 win vs. D.C. United:

Jack McInerney (G,A), Mohammed Saied (A), Justin Meram (G), Michael Parkhurst (A), Ethan Finlay (2G), Wil Trapp (A), Tony Tchani (A), Aaron Schoenfeld (G), Waylon Francis (A)

March 25, 2023. 6-1 win vs. Atlanta United:

Aidan Morris (G), Christian Ramirez (2G), Jacen Russell-Rowe (G, 2A), Philip Quinton (G), Alexandru Matan (3A), Steven Moreira (A), Mohamed Farsi (A), Max Arfsten (G), Will Sands (A)


As if all this weren’t enough, the Crew scored on all six of their shots on goal. With the help of the aforementioned Will Glenn at MLS HQ, it has been verified that the Crew are the first team in MLS history from 1996 to present to score six or more goals in a game while converting 100% of their shots on goal.


The Crew weren’t the only team that scored on 100% of their shots on goal. Atlanta only had one shot on goal and that resulted in Brooks Lennon’s goal in the 71st minute. That means Columbus and Atlanta combined for seven goals on seven shots on goal. Not a single save to be found by either goalkeeper,

Believe it or not, this is not a record. Just focusing on the Opta era from 2010 to present, Glenn advised me that there have been two games featuring eights goals without a single save. On April 25, 2015, Houston and Kansas City each went a perfect 4-for-4 with their shots on goal in a 4-4 draw in Houston. So that’s eight goals on eight shots on goal.

On September 20, 2017, Toronto and Montreal took this concept to the next level by providing an interesting wrinkle. Home side Montreal scored on all five of their shots on goal. The visitors from Toronto scored on both of theirs, plus were the beneficiary of an own goal. So in that game, the two teams managed to score EIGHT goals on just SEVEN shots on goal!

I told Glenn not to waste his Sunday digging into the pre-Opta era since we had already confirmed that as crazy as 7-for-7 was, it was not an MLS record for total combined shots-on-goal conversion perfection.

On a night like Saturday, I suppose that’s a good thing. It leaves an improbable statistical record out there to be broken on some future trip to the stadium. You just never know when it’s going to be. As a random Saturday night in Columbus emphatically proved, something magical can happen when you least expect it.

That’s why we watch.



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One thought on “Mr. Numbers Nerd: Crew’s firehose of firsts vs ATL

  1. Hi Steve. I’m still in awe of the match last weekend and really enjoy your write-ups. I’m curious if Columbus has ever scored 5 goals in a half before, or if they’ve ever scored 4 goals in better than the 21 minutes they scored on Saturday.

    I love when special things like this happens because it usually means I get a super interesting write-up from you. Thanks again.

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