A late goal by Montreal midfielder Raheem Edwards locked Columbus Crew SC in what looked like a 2-2 draw in the home opener. And then the Black & Gold’s new volume scorer stepped up and knocked a penalty kick home in stoppage time, on Crew SC’s last chance. The goal bagged a brace for the import from the LA Galaxy.
Charging one final time four minutes into stoppage play, Edwards made contact with Columbus rookie midfielder Luis Argudo in the box and was called for a penalty. Zardes proceeded to smash home an upper-90 game-winner.
“That’s why he has his experience and that’s why he’s scored a lot of goals in his career because he’s confident in those moments,” Crew SC Head Coach Gregg Berhalter said. “They’re not easy moments. Ninety plus four with the game on the line is not an easy moment but he did a good job.”
Acquired on Jan. 20, Zardes finds himself with the opportunity to make a run at the MLS Golden Boot. He overtook his goal total from 2017 already on Saturday with three in two weeks. A system that produced 34 goals in two seasons for Crew SC’s last striker, Ola Kamara, has proven productive for Zardes as well.
Midfielder Federico Higuain, who scored earlier in the match on a penalty kick, spoke with Zardes before the late attempt and the two agreed to let the newcomer take the shot. Zardes had the right mindset.
“Put the ball in the back of the net,” Zardes said. “You have to. You have to be confident. It’s a big moment and I’m thankful that Higuain let me take that and also that Luis drew the PK. It was a big moment for him.”
Argudo entered the match in the 58th minute as a substitution. The third-round pick signed his regular-season deal with Crew SC about a week and a half ago. In the last two weeks, he’s manned the midfield in two exhilarating victories. His poise has brought praise from Berhalter and his peers.
“Honestly, I wish I was a little calmer just because it would help me more,” Argudo said. “Everything has been going great so far, the team has been really helpful, the coaches, everything. When I get on the field I try to be as calm as I can.”
Two early goals made for an exciting start to the home campaign for the Black & Gold.
The goal that gave Crew SC a lead in the 12th minute was a historic one. Higuain used misdirection to his advantage on a penalty kick and booted home his 50th career goal. The attempt came in the wake of former Crew SC defender Jukka Raitala’s foul in the box on Lalas Abubakar.
Higuain now stands one assist away from becoming the inaugural member of the 50-50 club for Crew SC. Only 19 players in the history of the MLS have accumulated scoring numbers in that fashion. Seventeen of those goals have come on penalty kicks for Higuain, a specialty of the Argentine midfielder. The goal was his second of the young season, and he plans to build on the number 50.
“I’m happy, it’s a good amount of goals,” Higuain said. “I want more. I’m here to play soccer, to learn something new every day and to improve.”
The Black & Gold scored again just three minutes later in the 15th. Midfielder Artur attempted a header in the box that ricocheted off the crossbar before finding the foot of Zardes, who easily poked it home for a 2-0 lead.
Montreal found the net to cut the lead in half in the 59th minute. Midfielder Ignacio Piatti dribbled on the left side of the pitch before firing far post across the face of Crew SC goalkeeper Zack Steffen and finding the net. He was assisted by fellow midfielder Samuel Piette.
The goal that knotted the match up in the 85th minute off the left foot of Edwards came on a high one-touch thanks to a cross from defender Daniel Lovitz and a secondary assist from Saphir Taider.
Crew SC ended up being outshot 16-13 by Montreal after a treacherous second half, but Columbus put balls on goal when they counted, registering more shots on target by a 6-5 margin and less shots off target by a 3-10 margin. The Black & Gold also tallied seven corners compared to Montreal’s two.
Crew SC raised its early-season record to 2-0-0 (6 points), while Montreal now stands at 0-2-0 (0 points). The Black & Gold are undefeated in their last eight regular season matches, with seven wins coming in that stretch. Columbus hasn’t sustained a loss to the Impact since April 9, 2016.
The Black & Gold will go back out on the road to take on the Philadelphia Union next Saturday, March 17, at 2 p.m. ET.