FC Cincinnati has not scored in 484 minutes.
The match at Mapfre Stadium in Columbus was the first professional sports game in Ohio to allow fans since the COVID-19 pandemic halted sports in March. The crowd of 1,500 represented about 7.5 percent of the 19,968 capacity.
Zardes did not start for the only the 16th time in 202 MLS regular-season games. He entered in the 62nd minute, 10 minutes after Santos gave the Crew a 1-0 lead, and made it 2-0 a mere two minutes later.
He added his seventh of the season in the 71st minute to give him seven goals in five career games vs. Cincinnati. He had not scored in a reserve role since May 2013 for the Los Angeles Galaxy.
The Crew are 2-0-1 vs. their Ohio rival this season while outscoring Cincinnati 7-0 in those games and are off to the best start in team history. The Crew is comfortably atop the Eastern Conference.
Columbus ran its unbeaten streak at home to 6-0-3 after breaking the Cincinnati defense, which had three shutouts in the previous four games, including 0-0 vs. the Crew on Aug. 29.
Santos got his first goal of the season from a cross by Luis Diaz, a half-time substitute.
That's when Zardes, who turned 29 on Wednesday, took over. He created a turnover and seconds later, Santos sent a ball to the box that Zardes clipped into the goal. The next goal was a rebound of his own shot.