The Columbus Crew began their 2016 US Open Cup run with a meeting from the NASL’s Tampa Bay Rowdies. Playing in Columbus but away from home at nearby Jesse Owens Stadium, Crew SC thrived after a two-hour weather delay in the first half, topping the Rowdies 4-0, despite only having 16 healthy players to create a lineup from.
The Crew, who won the tournament in 2002, picked up the win despite playing with mostly substitutes in an unfamiliar venue and fighting the elements. They will look to continue their run in the Round of 16 as Columbus attempts to win multiple games in a tournament for the first time since their runner-up finish in 2010.
After 25 minutes of listless play from both sides, high winds, lightning, and eventual sheets of rain caused the referee to suspend play. It couldn’t have come at a better time for Columbus, as they hadn’t registered a shot on goal yet. Tampa Bay had three shots to their credit, although none were particularly dangerous.
After play resumed, it was all Crew SC. Justin Meram began the scoring with a goal in the 41st minute. Though it goes down as unassisted due to a defender getting a foot on the ball, the pass was from Emil Larsen. The Rowdies thought Larsen was offside and stopped running as the defenders raised their hands and looked towards the assistant referee. The flag stayed down, leaving Larsen able to pass the ball easily to a centered Meram who slotted it past the diving keeper, Matt Pickens.
“The rain lowered the temperature, it was one of those slow starts,” Meram said, “once we got back out there we took it to them and they couldn’t recover.”
The Crew took it to the Rowdies in the second half. Cristian Martinez, 19, scored his second goal in as many games in the 48th minute with a backheel assist for Ethan Finlay, and secondary assist by Waylon Francis. Finlay then picked up a goal of his own just four minutes later on a penalty kick after Rodrigo Saravia was fouled in the box. Columbus struck for their final goal of the night in the 65th minute as Marshall Hollingsworth scored his first-ever goal for the club.
Columbus advances to the Round of 16 for the fourth year in a row.
“We looked at video [during the delay] and saw some things we thought we could take advantage of,” Columbus head coach Gregg Berhalter said, “It was clear… and luckily we took advantage of that.”