The Columbus Crew overcame a COVID-19 outbreak and a stingy Nashville SC defense to book their place in the MLS Eastern Conference final on Sunday.
Gyasi Zardes registered a goal and assist in extra time, with Pedro Santos delivering the game-winning goal in a 2-0 Crew victory at Mapfre Stadium.
The win moves the Crew into the Eastern Conference final, at home, against the New England Revolution on December 6th.
A total of seven Crew players, including regular starter Eloy Room and Derrick Etienne Jr., did not dress for the match after a COVID-19 outbreak, but replacements Andrew Tarbell and Luis Diaz stepped in and helped the Crew post a shutout win that pushes them to a conference final for the first time since 2015.
The match was a fairly even one in regulation, with the Crew struggling to put really dangerous chances on Nashville SC goalkeeper Joe Willis. The best of Willis’ three saves came in the 79th minute when he denied an excellent Zardes chance to keep the match 0-0.
Nashville SC went into extra time hoping to duplicate its overtime heroics against Toronto FC, but the Crew were up for the challenge, and took control in the 99th minute when Zardes raced down the left flank before picking out Santos in the penalty for an expert finish to open the scoring.
The Santos goal forced Nashville SC to commit more numbers forward in search of an equalizer, which left the visitors vulnerable on the counterattack. The final dagger came courtesy of a quick-striker counter that conclude with Luis Diaz slipping a perfect pass to Zardes just as he raced behind the Nashville SC defense. Zardes coolly finished past Willis to secure the Crew’s place in the Eastern Conference final, at Mapfre Stadium against the Revolution.
MAN of the match
Gyasi Zardes set up the winning goal, then buried an insurance goal to seal the victory in extra time for the Crew.
moment of the match
The Pedro Santos goal, which was a perfectly-executed attack that began with a throw-in, featured combination play between Lucas Zelarayan and Zardes, who picked out Santos for the finish.
match to forget
Hany Mukhtar had a quiet night for Nashville SC, failing to register a single shot and providing little spark to an attack that just didn’t produce much.