A brace by Christian Ramirez and the first career goals by Aidan Morris, Philip Quinton and Max Arfsten helped shorthanded host Columbus to a 6-1 win against depleted Atlanta United on Saturday.
The loss was the heaviest for Atlanta in the team’s history.
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The Crew (2-2-1, 7 points) led 1-0 at the half on Morris’ goal in the 14th minute before exploding in the second half for goals by Ramirez (47th and 64th minutes), Quinton (51st) and Jacen Russell-Rowe (68th).
Brooks Lennon scored in the 71st minute for Atlanta (3-1-1, 10 points) to make it 5-1, before Arfsten tallied in the first minute of stoppage time in his MLS debut.
The decision by MLS to schedule games through the international break produced the expected results with key personnel called to duty by their countries.
Atlanta was minus seven players, including Thiago Almada, who leads the league with four goals and is tied for the lead with four assists; former Crew forward Derrick Etienne Jr.; and U.S. national team defender Miles Robinson. Also, defender Andrew Gutman was forced to leave in the 45th minute with an injury.
For the Crew, goalkeeper Eloy Room, playmaker Lucas Zelarayan and defender Milos Degenek, who played for Australia in the 2022 World Cup, were absent, as was injured striker Cucho Hernandez (knee).
Morris, a 21-year-old midfielder, scored in his 42nd regular-season match with a diving header from 6 yards for the opening score. Alexandru Matan‘s shot from the edge of the penalty area skimmed the right foot of Atlanta’s Santiago Sosa and popped in the air to Morris.
Ramirez doubled the score with a shot from the middle of the box after a cross by Russell-Rowe.
Quinton, a Columbus native who was signed from the Crew 2 development team, scored in his fifth MLS match by heading a corner kick from Matan, who had three assists, to make it 3-0.
Ramirez scored from the top of the box and Russell-Rowe made it 5-0 on the counter before Lennon ripped a shot to the far post past goalkeeper Patrick Schulte.