No Cucho Hernandez or Lucas Zelarayan, no problem for the Columbus Crew against Atlanta United.
With three players missing on international leave and the team’s main source of offense sidelined with a knee injury, the Crew came alive offensively, using four second-half goals by three different players — including two by Christian Ramirez in his team debut — to secure the 6-1 victory against Atlanta United.
The Crew’s six-goal performance against Atlanta was the team’s first since Oct. 26, 2003 when it scored six goals against Chicago Fire FC.
Aidan Morris, Philip Quinton, Jacen Russell-Rowe and Max Arfsten each scored their first career MLS goals.
For Crew coach Wilfried Nancy, the goal for his team was simple: to provoke, to attack the box. For him, that was the task at hand.
“I believe in our players,” Nancy said. “It’s all about the task — what we have to do when we have the ball, when we don’t have the ball. It’s all about the concept. And today, the fact that we have been working well, everybody accepted that. Today was a good reward for that.”
Morris started the offensive onslaught for the Crew in the first half.
In the 14th minute, Alexandru Matan found the ball after an interception by Morris, pushing the offense to the right side of the goal. Matan lasered the ball through two Atlanta defenders and Crew forward Jacen Russell-Rowe to Morris, who lunged forward for the header and the score.
While it was the team’s only score in the first half, the Crew didn’t take long to catch fire in the second.
Ramirez took a cross from Russell-Rowe in the 47th minute to connect on his first Crew goal in his first game with the team. Four minutes later, Quinton connected on his first MLS goal on a header off a Matan corner to secure the Crew’s first three-goal game of the season.
Ramirez continued to pour it on, securing his fifth multi-score game of his MLS career and first since the 2019 season before Russell-Rowe, in his first MLS start, gave Atlanta a five-goal deficit with his first career MLS goal.
Ramirez ended his Crew debut as the fifth player in MLS history to score on his team debut for three different teams along with Minnesota United and the Houston Dynamo.
“The last 10 months have been really frustrating for myself and the situation I was in,” Ramirez said, transferring from Aberdeen in the Scottish Premiership to the Crew on a two-year contract. “But I continued to have belief in myself, continued to work hard. I was blessed with this opportunity.”
In the first half, Alexandru Matan provided the energy for the Crew offense.
One game removed from his first career goal against the New York Red Bulls, Matan was the Crew’s table-setter for the offense, weaving his way through the Atlanta defense and finding himself as an integral starting point of each Crew set-piece.
Nancy said Matan is still growing and trying to “push the boundaries” offensively and knowing when to pass and keep possession himself.
Arfisten put the finishing touches on Atlanta united in stoppage time with the Crew’s sixth goal of the game.
In the first half, the Crew defense shut down an Atlanta offense that had rolled through the first four games of the season, tied with St. Louis CITY SC for an MLS-leading 11 goals.
The tandem of Will Sands and Gustavo Vallecilla, playing in his first Crew game after being acquired on loan from Colorado in early March, shut down Atlanta winger Luiz Araújo. Crew goalkeeper Patrick Schulte punched away Araújo’s only true shot attempt off a leading pass from Miguel Berry in the first half.
Brooks Lennon cut Atlanta’s deficit to four goals in the 71st minute, while Franco Ibarra latter connected on a ball past Crew goalkeeper Patrick Schulte which was called off-sides.
The Crew returns to the pitch against Real Salt Lake at 7:30 p.m. April 1 at Lower.com Field.
“The way we train… all the players train with a good intensity,” Nancy said. “They train with a really good spirit. They are able to accept the challenge. They are able to push the boundaries. Today, they showed that they were able to do it in a consistent way during a game.”