It was a Saturday night shootout in Columbus crew SC’s final match in the Pacific Rim Cup. Goals by Gyasi Zardes, Federico Higuain, Lalas Abubakar, Edward Opoku and Luis Argudo fueled the Black & Gold to a 5-3 victory over Japanese-side Iwaki FC at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, Hawaii.
For the fourth time in three preseason friendlies, Zardes penned himself onto the scoresheet with a goal. The newly acquired and in-form striker opened Crew SC’s cascade of goals in the 33rd minute off a feed from Pedro Santos. The close-range kill shot burst into the roof of the net, granting Columbus a short-lived lead.
Just seconds after the subsequent restart, Iwaki FC brought things back to level. Tsubasa Hisanaga struck the equalizer in the 34th minute.
Exiting the intermission into the second half, Crew SC again took the lead — this time in the 48th minute courtesy of Higuain’s sure-thing strike from the penalty spot. The midfielder stepped to the spot and struck with his right foot, beating the correctly guessing goalkeeper into the back of the net. Just four minutes later, Columbus added a third off a set piece nodded home by Abubakar.
With a freshly wide-open match producing end-to-end action, Iwaki clawed a goal back in the 66th minute off the boot of Masahide Hiraoka.
The melee continued into the 73rd minute when 2018 MLS SuperDraft selection Opoku broke free into the Iwaki FC 18-yard box and rounded the goalkeeper for Crew SC’s fourth.
It took just four minutes for Iwaki FC’s Atsushi Yoshida to rebound to again make it a one-goal match.
Columbus finally delivered the decisive goal in the 90th minute when 2018 SuperDraft draftee Argudo tapped in a precision-placed Hector Jimenez ball.
All in all, Crew SC closed the Pacific Rim Cup with a 1-1-0 record and seven goals scored. The 2018 preseason campaign will continue by attempting to defend it’s 2017 Carolina Challenge Cup against Atlanta United FC and Minnesota United FC as well as hosts Charleston Battery (United Soccer League) for the 2018 Carolina Challenge Cup. After going unbeaten in the 2017 event, Crew SC makes the trip to South Carolina as the defending champion of the exhibition tournament.
Carolina Challenge Cup Schedule
|Feb. 17||Crew SC vs. Atlanta United FC (CCC)|
|Feb. 21||Crew SC vs. Charleston Battery (CCC)|
|Feb. 24||Crew SC vs. Minnesota United FC (CCC)|
The Major League Soccer regular season will kick off just days after the conclusion of the CCC and Crew SC’s preseason, with Crew SC opening their season on the road at Toronto FC on March 3. Following that 2017 Eastern Conference Championship rematch, Crew SC returns to MAPFRE Stadium to host the Montreal Impact on March 10, 2018.
In 2017, Crew SC returned to the postseason for the third time in four years and reached the Eastern Conference Championship for the second time in four seasons under Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter.