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Columbus Crew Match Preview – Philadelphia Union at Columbus Crew

Photo via Columbus Crew

In the 2+ years since Field opened as the new home of the Columbus Crew, there hasn’t been a home match as anticipated as the one Saturday September 30th, when the Philadelphia Union enters the Columbus cauldron. Both teams have qualified for the playoffs, but home-field advantage in the first-round best-of-three series is at stake.

Looking Up

Everything is pointing upward for the Crew organization these days. For years the Columbus Crew – and Major League Soccer – was just staying afloat. The Crew was playing in a dated stadium, a glorified high school stadium built to international soccer dimensions, selling the organization and the league short. Aside from loyal Nordecke supporters and soccer kids, no one was going to the games. Former USMNT star and current Toronto FC defender Michael Bradley once called out the organization as sub-standard for Major League Soccer’s inaugural team. He wasn’t entirely wrong.

Photo via stadiumguide

The situation at Mapfre Stadium (now called Historic Crew Stadium) was unsustainable. The owner at the time, who shall remain nameless, demanded a downtown stadium under threat of moving the team to Austin, Texas. Thanks to a tireless effort by Nordecke supporters and their #SaveTheCrew campaign, the owner left town without the team. Former coach Caleb Porter was the calm, steady leader the Crew organization needed in a time of turmoil, unexpectedly leading the Crew to a 2020 MLS Cup.

New Ownership

The Columbus Crew organization was bought by the Haslam family – same ownership as the Cleveland Browns – and a new chapter was started. Field was built, the downtown Mecca-of-a-stadium the club deserved and needed, and the first match was held in July 2021. Caleb Porter was replaced after the 2022 season by Wilfried Nancy, a generational coach who played professionally in France and proved himself as a coach in Montreal.

Photo by Columbus Crew

Fast forward to late September 2023. The Crew is playing an exciting brand of soccer, leading the MLS with 61 goals in 30 matches. The Crew clinched a playoff spot on September 20th with a 3-0 thrashing of Chicago in front of the home crowd – Cucho recorded a hat trick in front of the Nordecke section and the place went wild.

Photo via Columbus Crew

Sellout Streak Field is selling out every match; the streak is up to 13 which well-surpasses the previous mark.

Photo via Joel Speyer

Nancy has retooled the team, fortifying the defense and bringing in speedy forward Diego Rossi to fill a gap left by departed forward Lucas Zelarayán. Rossi, Cucho and Alexandru Matan create a strong front line, with Christian Ramírez coming off the bench recently.

Photo via Columbus Crew


The Gauntlet

This Columbus Crew team – and its fans – are hungry for more than just a playoff berth. Columbus is playing for home-field advantage in the first round. The schedule over the next eight days is a gauntlet and the Crew will have to traverse a tough terrain. Philadelphia is in 3rd place with 50 points, one point behind Orlando City. Columbus and two other teams have 49 points, the New England Revolution and Atlanta United. After Saturday’s match against Philadelphia, the Crew play at New England on Wednesday, October 4th and have another quick turnaround with a game at Atlanta on October 7th.

Given the treacherous road and the number of teams in the hunt, this is a must-win game against a formidable opponent. The Crew are one of the best teams at home, 11-1-4 in regular season play. The weather will be perfect, the environment in the stadium will be electric. Will it be enough to carry the team to victory?


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