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Zardes breaks out of recent slump as Crew try to regroup for stretch run

A recent stretch of struggles had Gyasi Zardes needing a break, and his two-goal performance in Sunday’s derby-day victory against the Columbus Crew suggests the break he did receive helped him regain his scoring touch.

Whether that will be enough to help the Crew revive their playoff chances is another story.

The Crew’s 3-1 victory over FC Cincinnati marked their first victory in the newly-formed rivalry, and Zardes’s two-goal effort suggests he could be a part of a late-season push.

“Yeah, obviously that is what you want out of your striker. He’s had a couple rough games and missed some chances.” Crew head coach Caleb Porter said.

Zardes has been less than clinical in finish attempts over the past few weeks, including a pair of opportunities that would have earned his team all three points against FC Cincinnati just two weeks ago in Columbus.

“We had some great talks after those games, and I kept telling him that I believe in him, and I gave him a couple-day break,” Porter said. “He bought into it and understood. I think he just needed a little bit of a couple days rest and it sure looked like it helped today. It was great for him. I mean, he looked every bit as good as the type of striker that we want and need.”

It took Zardes only 22 minutes to earn his first multi-goal game since March 20th against a struggling New England Revolution that was still under Brad Friedel.

For Zardes, the rest and notes from Porter were appreciated.

“Coach gave me a couple days off mid-week. I think that was great for myself. Just allow myself a little bit more rest, and prepare for this game.

“We’ve been trying to score first, and today we capitalized on that. Now I think we need to carry this momentum into the next game.”

The Crew are facing a daunting task in their quest for a playoff spot. They are currently seven points behind Toronto FC for the final playoff spot in the East, but TFC has two games in hand. Catching TFC, or any of the other teams that might stumble in the coming weeks, is a tall order, but Sunday’s victory could provide Columbus with a vital confidence boost in the final weeks of the regular season.

“I think what was good about it is that we showed the type of football we can play, and a bit of the vision moving forward of what we want it to look like,” Porter said. “That first half was the best half of the year, and I thought it was as close to the vision of how we want to play moving forward as we’ve had all season long.”

The Crew have endured a barrage of injuries throughout the season, and appear set to add another name to the list of sidelined players. Luis Diaz, the young designated player who provided a goal and assist in Sunday’s win, left the derby win in the 54th minute with an injury that could make things even more challenging for a team already considered a long shot to make the playoffs.

“It’s been a rough year, it’s been a challenge,” Porter said. “We had adversity, we had more adversity today. We lost more guys with injures today. I mean, I can’t believe it, every game it seems like we lose another guy.

“But, we wanted, in spite of all those things, to send our supporters home, make them feel good, to remind everybody the type of club that we are, the type of team that we are, and the type of players we have.”

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