Columbus Crew SC started their playoffs on a Thursday just four days after their final game of the regular season.Due to a lackluster end to the season, Crew SC played the team currently ending their season on a hot streak and one of the Crew’s original rivals, DC United, in a knockout game away from home.
If I had to pick a word to describe this game it was reminiscent.It was reminiscent of the Crew’s knockout game in Atlanta last year.It was a physical game.It was a tough game, and it went to penalty kicks.
After 90’, the game was tied 1-1 on a DC goal from Brillant in the 21’ and a goal from Federico Higuain in the 30’.In extra time, Higuain, typically a master with the ball at his feet, headed home a goal in the 96’.Then, DC’s Nick DeLeon scored the tying goal off a poor clearance from the Crew in the 116’.The game’s extra time ended in a 2-2 tie and proceeded to penalty kicks.
Zack Steffen repeated his masterful performance during PKs last year in Atlanta, by blocking both Wayne Rooney’s and Luciano Acosta’s shots.Gyasi Zardes’s shot was blocked by the DC keeper, and Patrick Mullins knocked his off the post.The PKs ended, not by a Crew player shushing the crowd as Adam Jahn did last year in Atlanta, but as DeLeon, the hero of the extra time shot his PK over the net.
Thoughts on this Game:
Pipa, who is fantastic much of the time anyway, has turned it up a notch in the playoffs scoring 3 goals (one a PK) in this match.He definitely is showing his hunger for an MLS Cup.
DC was a tough opponent, but we gifted them the two goals.The first when Steffen allowed a cross to go through his fingertips and drop to Brillant and a poor clearance by Crew led to DC’s second goal.We need to minimize these errors to keep moving forward in the playoffs.
My heart can’t handle these overtime, go to PKs, knockout away games against strong teams.However, the Crew continues to win them. However, during this game what shocked me the most was when Gregg Berhalter was stopping a ball that had gone out of bounds and Acosta shoved and then tripped him.Now, I’ve seen Berhalter do this in many games, but I’ve never seen a player respond in that way.I don’t know if it resulted in any discipline for Acosta, but it should have.
Gregg Berhalter showed why he is being considered for the USMNT coaching position after the Crew’s 1-0 result against the Supporter’s Shield winners the New York Red Bulls.
Again, the Crew were playing on shorter rest than their opponents—playing only 3 days after their lengthy game against DC.Berhalter shifted his line-up from the DC game into a free-flowing 4-4-2.Pipa started the game on the bench.Patrick Mullins and Gyasi Zardes started up top, and rookie Luis Argudo started out right.
While there were a few chances for both teams, the more memorable one in the first half was by the New York Red Bulls in the 27’.The ball was headed off a corner, bounced off the post toward the goal line, went off the head of a diving Zack Steffen, and then traveled out of the goal area.Despite the close chance for New York, the first half ended, 0-0.
In the second half, Pipa came off the bench, and the tempo of the game for Crew SC changed.In the 59’, New York’s Daniel Royer had a breakaway that ended as Steffen ran 35 feet up the field to tackle Royer. Then the Crew scored their goal in the 61’, and it was a thing of beauty.Milton Valenzuela sent a ball across to Higuain who flicked the ball across to Zardes who finished off the shot.
Both keepers made important saves in the waning minutes of the game.Luis Robles saved a hard shot from distance from Pedro Santos in the 89’, and Steffen made a fingertip save of a Bradley Wright-Phillips header in the 93’.This final save sealed the 1-0 win for the Crew.
Thoughts on this Game:
In the playoff games played thus far, the Crew have shown why they should not be underestimated.While they did not go into the playoffs on a winning streak as in years past, they have apparently found their playoff mojo.They did a nice job minimizing the Red Bulls scoring threats.If our defense can keep up the defense they showed in this game, the Crew can go deep into the playoffs.
Today, it was announced that Zack Steffen was MLS Goalkeeper of the Year.While some other fans don’t seem happy with the result, I think he has definitely earned the accolades this year.I’m not saying the other keepers didn’t deserve it—being a professional goalkeeper takes skills—I am proudly a fan of Steffen.
Finally, it is clear that Gregg Berhalter’s meticulous strategizing brings positive results.Let’s see those results continue this Sunday when the Crew take on the Red Bulls in the second leg of the Conference Semi-Finals.
The game was about as shaky and unpredictable as the Ohio weather.Columbus Crew SC took on the Minnesota United FC in the final game of the season in Columbus.
Before the game, the sun shone down and prepared the teams and fans for a game that determined the Crew’s playoff possibilities. However, nine minutes in, Ohio weather being Ohio weather, decided to change tactics.Lightning and rain caused a delay–foiling the MLS’ plan that all games end at the same time leaving every teams’ playoff fate unknown until the final minute of all those synchronized games.Well, as MLS has learned this year, Columbus rarely does it the way they want us to.
After about an hour delay, the game resumed in the blustering wind, rain, and a significant temperature drop.Crew SC jumped back into the match quickly with a short corner from Federico Higuain to Milton Valenzuela.Valenzuela sent in a cross, which Gyasi Zardes headed into the goal in the 11’ of the game.
In the 41’, a scary scene emerged, as Columbus Crew’s Gaston Sauro in an effort to stop a streaking Angelo Rodriguez, collided with keeper Zack Steffen leaving both Rodriguez and Steffen on the ground for several minutes with Rodriguez being subbed out.Steffen returned to the match with a collective sigh of relief leaving all Crew fans.
The first half ended with Crew SC up 1-0 and a playoff spot clinched as the Montreal Impact lost to the New England Revolution. Despite the guaranteed playoff spot, it was important for Crew SC to get the win as they have struggled to get results as of late and need to get into form if they want to go deep into the playoffs and make a run for the MLS Cup.
Gyasi Zardes scored quickly again in the second half slotting a ball in the 49’ after following up a free kick from Higuain that bounced off of Minnesota goalkeeper Matt Lampson, but Minnesota had no desire to make this easy for the Crew.Francisco Calvo, a Minnesota defender scored in the 68’ unmarked off a free kick, and again in the 77’, as a ball skipped between Harrison Afful’s legs right to Calvo.Minnesota had evened up the score.
However, Zardes decided that it was time to score his first career hat trick and scored the final goal of the night in the 83’ off a beautiful ball from Niko Hansen putting the Crew SC in fifth place.
I haven’t written a lot of articles this season about Crew SC.First, I can’t watch away games at home due to some bizarre blackout rule that I have yet to figure out.Second, my personal life outside of soccer has been a bit more crazy than normal.And third, this was an emotionally hard season.Due to the possibility of the Crew’s move to Austin, every game felt more emotionally draining than normal.It was difficult to want to relive that in recaps and articles.
However, it looks likely, due to a local ownership group that includes the Edwards and Haslam families, that Crew SC may remain in Columbus with Austin getting its own team.Now until the final i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed, I will not feel completely calm, but it helped me enjoy this game a lot more.
Zardes scored his first professional hat trick in this game and ended the regular season with 19 goals.I have a lot of respect for Sigi Schmid, but I’m not sure what he was thinking trying to play Gyasi at leftback last season when Zardes was with the Galaxy.Gregg Berhalter has a proven system that helps make his forwards successful goal scorers.
As this was the last regular season home game, it always makes me pause and wonder who we are possibly watching for the last time as a Crew SC player.Will Steffen and Wil Trapp head to Europe?Will Berhalter be named the new USMNT head coach?The answers to these questions, for now, remain unknown but I am very thankful that these men have played a part in Columbus Crew SC history.
Typically, Crew SC is on a hot streak going into the playoffs. This season, we have not seen this streak.In fact, it’s been pretty much the opposite.If Crew SC can’t find their top-level form and make the mistakes they made against Minnesota, their playoff run will be short-lived.
Let’s hope Crew SC bring their A-game against a very tough DC United team this Thursday in the playoff knockout game.
On Saturday in front of a home crowd of about 12,000 fans, Columbus Crew SC found their groove again that will hopefully continue on through the post-season and all the way to the MLS Cup, winning 2-1 against NYCFC.
While Crew SC felt like the more dominant team for most of the first half with opportunities for goals for Justin Meram and Gyasi Zardes, the half ended in a 0-0 tie.
Then in the 53’, NYCFC pulled ahead when Anton Tinnerholm hit the ball against Crew SC’s Lalas Abubakar.The ball then bounced back off Tinnerholm to the feet of Ismael Tajouri-Shradi who put it in the net.
It wasn’t long before Crew SC struck back and did so in a short time span.In the 61’, Frederico Higuain sent a ball to Harrison Afful who was outside the 18.He shot the ball.It bounced off an NYCFC player right back to Afful who took another rip at the ball.Abubakar ducked out Afful’s rocket shot and the ball sailed into the bottom corner of the net past Sean Johnson.The goal was very reminiscent of Wil Trapp’s goal a few weeks ago.
Then in the 63’, Justin Meram headed the ball in off a corner kick from Pedro Santos and celebrated his first goal since returning home to Columbus Crew SC by kissing the Columbus Crew SC badge on his jersey.
At the game‘s end, Crew SC was still in 4th place in the Eastern Conference, but 3 points closer to NYCFC who sits in 3rd place.
I am excited for the return of Justin Meram, and this game illustrated why it is so good to have him back.At the end of last season, Justin Meram requested to be traded from Columbus—partly due to the looming threat of a move to Austin and partly because he wanted to stretch himself professionally somewhere other than Columbus where he has been his whole career.However, things didn’t go as well as Justin had hoped in Orlando, and there was an opportunity for him to return to Columbus.
Watching Meram play his first full 90 minutes since coming back to Columbus, I’m reminded of what a dangerous threat he developed into as a player here—combining with other players, strong defending, taking players on as he attacked toward the goal, and taking dangerous shots.We needed someone to lock down the left-wing position, and Meram has settled right back into where he belongs.As he kissed the crest on his badge after his goal, I’m not going to lie, I got teary.
Pedro Santos has struggled this season, and many have found him a disappointment.However, in the last few games and with Meram’s return, Santos seems to have found his footing.He was involved in many dangerous passes that led to other player’s shots and had a few shots of his own.For a player who I think may be more of an assist man than a shot guy, having Meram back, may have eased the burden and allows Santos to be the player that he is comfortable being.Time will tell, but this fan is optimistic for what Santos can bring to the team.
Wil Trapp, Gyasi Zardes, and Zack Steffen have all been called upfor USMNT friendlies on September 7th and 11th.These are three players who are very deserving of call ups.Zardes has proved that with the right team around him he is a dangerous scoring threat, scoring 15 goals thus far this season (and almost netting two more during this game).Steffen, I believe, is the USMNT keeper of the future.Wil Trapp is the cog of Crew SC’s midfield and can do this for the USMNT as well.
Finally, September 4th is a big day for the #SavetheCrew movement as the motion to dismiss that has been filed by PSV/MLS will be heard by a judge although it will not be likely ruled on for some time.I encourage all fans to familiarize themselves with what Crew SC fans are going through as it could be happening to other teams in the not too distant future.Visit savethecrew.com and learn more about the movement.
Crew SC will take on FC Dallas on Saturday, September 15th.I’ll look forward to Crew SC’s continued momentum towards the playoffs.
During a rain-delayed Saturday night, Columbus Crew SC took on Orlando City SC resulting in a very emotional night due to a Homegrown Hero.
The game’s scoring began with Sacha Kljestan in the 16’ who essentially was unmarked on the back post.
Then, in the middle of the first half, Crew SC took one of its 17 corner kicks of the night.Jonathan Mensah tried to bicycle the ball into the net but instead kicked an Orlando City SC defender.This resulted in the first brawl of the night with players on both sides shoving and trying to hold each other back.
The first half ended with Orlando up 1-0.
The second half started with Crew SC putting a goal in the net in the 51’.Harrison Afful sent the ball down the sideline to Niko Hansen who put a lot of work into chasing the ball down to the end line and sending it across to Gyasi Zardes who put the ball into the bottom corner of the net.
Orlando did not wait long and scored again in the 58’.Mensah got beat by the attacking Yoshimar Yotun who sent it to Kljestan who then flicked it across to Stefano Pinho who slotted it into the net.There was a lot of argument from Crew SC on this goal as they felt Zardes was significantly fouled with the ball at the start of the play, so the play should not have progressed to the scoring sequence that it became.Regardless of that perspective, Orlando was up 2-1 on Crew SC.
Officiating karma was going to swing back Crew SC’s way in the 86’ when Afful sent a cross into the box and Patrick Mullins, making his Crew SC debut after being picked up from DC United, was knocked down in the box while jumping for a header.Just as Crew SC had an issue with Orlando’s second goal, Orlando was not happy with the call on the field.
Gyasi Zardes took the PK, and while the keeper went the correct way, the PK was just too well struck to be stopped.Crew SC had tied the gamein the 88’, and Zardes had scored his thirteenth goal of the season.
The game looked as it would end in a tie until an unlikely hero would prove my prediction incorrect.Homegrown captain Wil Trapp got a pass from Mike Grella and after two touches rocketed the ball from about 37 yards out into the top right corner of the net giving the team the lead and a pile of Crew SC players tackling Wil on the field.It was a beautiful shot and up for MLS Goal of the Week.
The energy did not sizzle out then, but it did shortly after a second small fight broke out near the end of the game when Orlando players were trying to hurry up a Crew SC player who was down on the field.But eventually, the ref’s final whistle blew, and Columbus Crew SC defeated Orlando City SC 3-2.
Other random thoughts:
At some point during the game, Josh Williams left one of the 17 corner kicks with a torn jersey right in the middle of the chest.To say this game got chippy and physical might be an understatement.
With Berhalter at the helm, Crew SC typically rolls out a lineup of a 4-2-3-1 and an occasional 3-5-1-2 thrown in for some variety.When Patrick Mullins entered the match in the 68’ for Luis Argudo, we saw about as close to a 4-4-2 as we have ever seen under Berhalter.This gives the team another tool in its belt to use depending on the team they are playing.
Justin Meram who had been part of Crew SC since his rookie year was traded to Orlando City SC during the offseason partly due to his request to further his development somewhere else.Meram’s had trouble finding his rhythm in Orlando and did not make the trip to Columbus this past weekend.
Soon after the game, rumblings started that Meram had requested a trade back to Columbus.The lack of wingers contributing to goals this season has been a problem for Crew SC, and I for one would love to see Meram come back to Columbus. I think not only does it help the team and Meram, but it will also help Pedro Santos who has struggled to find his groove this season.With another winger like Meram for opponents to focus their attention on, Santos may be able to find firmer footing on the pitch.
Crew SC travel this upcoming Saturday to play the New York Red Bulls.
Columbus Crew SC took on the Chicago Fire Wednesday night in the first round of the US Open Cup.Due to having three MLS games in twelve days, Crew SC rolled out a lot of reserve players.But, I felt very confident that these reserve players could get a result.
Cristian Martinez opened the scoring up in the 10’ after receiving a beautiful pass from Niko Hansen.While Crew SC didn’t dominate the half, it looked likely they would go in at halftime with the lead.Nemanja Nikolic of the Chicago Fire had a different idea though and redirected a ball into the goal on a Rafael Ramos cross.However, if Nikolic hadn’t finished it, Diego Campos was making a backdoor run unmarked and would’ve finished it instead.
Ending regulation time with a 1-1 tie, the game went into two fifteen-minute halves.In the 109’, Nikolic struck again.Aleksandar Katai chipped it over Crew SC keeper Logan Ketterer who got his hand on the ball but volleyed it behind him.It was an easy finish for Nikolic who was waiting on the other side of the keeper.
In the 114’, Adam Jahn leveled the score when Luis Argudo sent a short corner to Cristian Martinez.Martinez sent a nice cross into the box that Adam Jahn headed into the net.
After extra time, the game went into penalty kicks.I’ve seen my team’s playoff run ended by penalty kicks, and I’ve seen them advance on them as well.But personally, I have never seen a game where penalty kicks go through the whole team and end up with the keepers taking PKs.
Nemanja Nikolic who scored both of the Fire’s goals during the game clanged the crossbar to miss the first PK of the night.Hector Jimenez took Crew SC’s second PK of the night, which was saved.It continued with all other players making their PKs until it was down to Chicago’s keeper Richard Sanchez and Columbus’s keeper Logan Ketterer.Ketterer’s shot wasn’t quite hard enough and was saved while Sanchez finished his shot to allow Chicago to advance in the Open Cup with a score of 2 (9)- 2 (10).
It was great to see Gaston Sauro on the pitch as this was his first game back at home since October 2016.He has been recovering from injury and surgery which could have ended his soccer career.I continue to look forward to Sauro making his way back into the starting lineup for Crew SC.
After Eduardo Sosa’s Crew SC debut as a substitute in last Saturday’s game against Toronto FC, he got the start and played the whole game in this match.I continue to marvel at Gregg Berhalter’s ability to find young talent.Between Argudo, Sosa, Valenzuela, and Opoku, Berhalter has a lot of young talented players that will make this Crew SC team a force to be reckoned with for years to come.
As kid a growing up in 🇬🇭 with nothing, u always dream of this moments but what are the chances u actually make it? Very little chance. Not the results we wanted but very thankful and blessed to have had the opportunity to play my first official game for🖤💛 #CrewSC#BeHappypic.twitter.com/xL85s9bcyX
In all honesty, while I love the Open Cup, I also loathe it.During the 2013 Open Cup, Eddie Gaven, my favorite Crew SC player, was injured and retired shortly after the 2013 season.I still wonder to this day what might have been had he not been injured in this tournament.
So, I am incredibly thrilled that none of our guys got hurt in the match and look forward to Crew SC’s upcoming MLS matches.
On Saturday, Columbus Crew SC took on Toronto FC for the Trillium Cup.With Wil Trapp and Zach Steffen away on International duty, Jonathan Mensah and Pedro Santos out with injury, and Cristian Martinez out for disciplinary issues, Crew SC had Mike Grella and Niko Hansen start out on the wings, Ricardo Clark play in Wil Trapp’s spot, and Jon Kempin fill in for Steffen.
Crew SC did not play a strong first 60 minutes.Due to a foul in the 17’, Toronto earned a PK that Victor Vazquez buried.Tosaint Ricketts, a first-half sub for Toronto, scored a goal in the 38’, and Sebastian Giovinco buried a free kick in the 57’. Down 3-0, it didn’t look great for the black and gold, but this team has proven time and time again that it shouldn’t be counted out.
Last November during the playoffs against Toronto, Michael Bradley commented on the Crew’s possible move to Austin essentially saying that Columbus hasn’t kept up with the league.Apparently, karma can come back to get you as Michael Bradley struggled in the last thirty minutes of the game resulting in a 3-3 tie and the Trillium Cup being given to Columbus.
The first goal came off a corner kick earned when Michael Bradley deflected a ball from Eduardo Sosa for a Crew SC corner.Frederico Higuain sent in a ball that Gyasi Zardes headed into the goal.Then, Crew SC earned a free kick that Higuain sent in, Josh Williams headed it across the goal.Bradley brought it down, but Homegrown player Alex Crognale stepped up on the ball and shot it into the bottom corner of the net.Then near the end of the game, Bradley hit the back of Zardes leg in the box—resulting in a PK that Higuain buried to tie the game in the 90’.
Some thoughts about the game:
In the 62’, Gregg Berhalter decided to make all his substitutions at once sending in Eduardo Sosa for Hansen, Luis Argudo for Grella, and Alex Crognale for Abubakar.I don’t know if I have ever seen this before, but all three subs definitely impacted the game in positive ways.
This was Sosa’s MLS debut, and I’ll be excited to see what the Higuain heir-apparent does with more minutes and more development.
If I haven’t said it before, I’m a huge fan of veteran Ricardo Clark.This was a great offseason pickup by Gregg Berhalter.
This Saturday, Crew SC face the New York Red Bulls.Let’s see if Gregg Berhalter and his team can continue their unbeaten streak to nine games.
On a cool April evening, Mapfre Stadium hosted a Superhero themed night.Not only were the stands filled with superheroes, but a superhero was found on the field too—resulting in a Columbus Crew SC 2-1 victory over San Jose Earthquakes.
Crew SC led off the scoring with a Harrison Afful goal from a Frederico Higuain assist in the 28’.The Earthquakes didn’t let Columbus get too comfortable with the lead for very long.In the 45’, Florian Jungwirth sent a ball across the field to a seemingly unmarked Danny Hoesen.Hoesen buried a header past Zach Steffen who looked like he may have gotten hit by a villain’s freeze ray.Although, I’m not sure there is much Steffen could have done to stop it.
In the 51’, it looked like Crew SC may have found their answer.When Afful sent in a cross, Milton Valenzuela shot the ball, but an Earthquake defender blocked the ball.It rebounded to Gyasi Zardes who took a shot, which seemed to hit the raised hands of the defender and deflected away.Most fans and Crew SC players thought it should be a penalty kick.Nothing was called, and the game continued.
Mike Grella entered his first game for Crew SC in the 65’ after being picked up in the offseason. Grella hadn’t played in an MLS match since early 2017 due to a serious injury. He has been working back from this injury and these were his first returning steps into an MLS game.
What Grella didn’t tell his teammates and fans is that he had on his superhero cape.In the 84’, Pedro Santos crossed the ball across to Grella who after a few quick touches buried the ball past the keeper at the near post earning Crew SC the win.I don’t know if you can write a happier ending than that.
Thoughts on the Game:
Earlier in the week, the club announced a contract extension for Higuain for next season.Now, I’ve always been pretty vocal about how vital I think Pipa is for this team, but for the last few weeks, he has gotten several cards for dissent, kicked the sideboards, and yelled at some of his teammates pretty heatedly on the field.This reminds me of Pipa from a few years back–not one I thought was playing the best soccer.While I appreciate passion, I hope it doesn’t start to negatively impact his game.
In the last few weeks, Crew SC has significantly outshot its opponents.While Crew SC is holding their opponents to very few shots, the problem is that the opponents’ shots are going in.So, Columbus needs to figure out how to continue to limit their opponents’ shot opportunities while not allowing their limited shots to actually enter the goal.
I still feel this team is missing Justin Meram’s production and knowledge of his teammates’ tendencies.Hopefully, Grella might develop into an answer to Meram’s absence.I’m also a huge fan of our rookie left back Milton Valenzuela.He is one to keep an eye on throughout the season if you haven’t already noticed him.
This upcoming weekend, Crew SC travel across the country to play the Seattle Sounders.Hopefully, the team will remember their superhero capes.
Thoughts about Atlanta United’s first MLS Playoff game
I’m so nervous. I’ve not been this freaked out about a sporting event ever. I’m not even sure writing this is a good idea, but I feel like if I get this out of my system, I’ll feel better. Maybe. Possibly. Or not. I don’t know.
This article from Dirty South Soccer sums up a lot of what I’m thinking/feeling this week:
I’ve experienced a roller coaster of emotions this year thanks to Atlanta United. This year has been everything I expected and more. Now that we’re just a little over 24 hours before actually playing a playoff game, though… *breathes into paper bag*
ATLUTD has played Columbus Crew three times this year: once in preseason at the Carolina Challenge Cup (Columbus won 2-1) and twice in the first half of the regular season (both wins for Atlanta). Both teams play a similar style of attacking soccer. Atlanta is favored to win this game, but it doesn’t seem likely to be an easy victory.
Atlanta does have home field advantage, though – and with over 70,000 people expected at this game (for the third time in just over a month and second in less than a week!), it’ll be LOUD.
A collaboration by official reporters of MLSFemale @MLSFemale
With Major League Soccer, there is no greater prize than the MLS Cup. Twelve teams, 6 from each conference, are vying for the chance to lift the ultimate prize of the league’s 22nd season. Here’s a quick rundown from our MLSFemale squad:
Toronto FC: AND NOW YOU’RE GUNNA BELIEVE US, we’ve gone and won the league! Suffice it to say the city of Toronto is over the moon with our accomplishments this season and we are looking forward to what we hope is a great playoff run. Michael Bradley succinctly put our season in summation by saying “…we went after every game from 1 to 34 like it was the only thing that mattered.” (source)
I think they can be proud that they never really wavered on that goal and it paid off. As a member of the Kings in the North, one of the official protectors of the Supporters’ Shield during it’s stay in Toronto, I look forward to spending some time up close and personal with it.
Our playoff future looks bright; one is left hoping that we take that same winning mentality into the playoffs and consider every opponent and every game with care. Finishing off the regular season at Atlanta was also a good test for us to end on. Fresh to the league, they were the one team I felt we hadn’t had a proper chance to sound out back in April. Having seen their house and how they feel about our players (your hate makes them strong, our love makes them unstoppable), I now feel confident that Toronto FC has the arsenal to make a successful playoff run. And as Giovinco has shown, this team is ready for whatever is thrown at them. So bring on our second (okay fine, third) go at it, we’re here to win it all!
*NYCFC: Not gonna lie: this team gets measurably better every year. With head coach Patrick Vieira, the Pigeons have made it to their 1st MLS post season in style, with a bye for the knockout round. Legend David Villa and newcomer Jack Harrison, as well as the rest of the squad, are going to face their first opponents well rested and ready for a run. Just how far can the boys in blue go their first time out?
Chicago Fire: Nine months ago Fire fans were excited for the club’s new signings– with Dax McCarty, Juninho, Niko, and Bastian Schweinsteiger, certainly the Men in Red wouldn’t finish last place again – would they?
By early June, fans knew that not only were the Chicago Fire going to dig themselves out from the bottom of the table, but the likelihood that they would be playoff contenders looked promising.
David Accam, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Juninho, amongst others have been battling injuries, just returned from injury, or will return from injury for the playoffs. Is the squad recovering at the appropriate time? With key players on the bench over the last couple of months, other players gained experience – this will certainly help strengthen roster options when Veljko Paunovic looks to his bench for substitution options.
Who will get the nod for the goalkeeper position? Matt Lampson, who has been with the team since February of 2016 and a total of 34 games played for the Fire? Or will Richard Sanchez start in net after only recently signing with the Fire?
We supporters are excited for the playoffs, for the opportunities that lie ahead, and for a home game, but we’re also realistic, especially after the last two unfortunate seasons.
Atlanta United: Well, here we are…The new kids in the league are in the playoffs. A 4th place finish to the regular season is better than where I thought we’d be at the beginning of the season. This gives us home field advantage for Thursday’s knockout round game – and home field advantage in Mercedes-Benz Stadium could be significant. We’ve also won both games against Columbus (#SaveTheCrew!) earlier this season – although we did lose to them in the preseason Carolina Challenge Cup in February.
This team is much stronger now. They’ve now had an entire season to get to know each other. We have a solid starting lineup – even with a few subs because of injuries. And with over 70,000 people expected at the game on Thursday to cheer them on, I think Atlanta United has a really good chance at hoisting that cup in December.
The boys are ready for this. Atlanta is ready for this.
Columbus Crew:In the middle of the season, the Crew was struggling and looked unlikely to make the playoffs, but Berhalter seems to have the magic touch with his team at the end of the season.The tie against NYCFC took the Crew’s unbeaten streak to 10.It kept the team in the 5th spot while a win could’ve put them in 2nd place.
The team is dealing with a lot of distractions with a fan base who passionately loves them and is distraught that an owner would take them away.(#savethecrew)However, if the team can keep their form and absorb the passion the fans are showing them, they actually have a chance against Atlanta.Although, it will be a tough away game.The fans really need them to win, so we have a home playoff game to show how much we love the players.
New York Red Bulls: Whew! Just made it in under the wire. But RBNY is in the playoffs for the 8th season in a row. Always the bridesmaid, RBNY is the only MLS 1.0 team (originally the NY/NJ Metrostars) never to lift the MLS Cup. Coach Jesse Marsch has said that the team has been the favorite during the playoffs to no avail and that it’s time to be underdog.
I’m expecting a solid performance from Tyler Adams and the rest of the back line as well as more attacking from Daniel Royer. Defender Aurelien Collin has been working his way back to full health, and Jesse hopes to be able to bring him back into the 18. Dax McCarty and the Chicago Fire are the first obstacle in the knockout round, and another edition of the Hudson River Derby is practically guaranteed after that. It won’t be easy, but nothing worth having ever is. Fight Together.
Portland Timbers: It is not an overstatement to say that for the Timbers this Sunday’s game was the most important game of the year up to this point. The Cascadia Cup was on the line, as was the chance to win the conference and a first round bye.
With a Portland win, they have won the West and a first round bye. They also take back the Cascadia Cup, the coveted supporter-owned trophy awarded to whichever northwest team has the best finish among the three Cascadia-area squads. If Portland had tied or lost, Seattle would have taken the Cup, and Portland would almost certainly have dropped to third or fourth place, hosting a midweek knockout round game.
As I expected, Attinella remained in goal, with Vytas and Powell on the wings, and Mattocks up top as we wait for Fanendo Adi to be match fit. And with PTFC’s Mattocks being a former Whitecaps player there was plenty of opportunity for a knife-twisting match finish as he gave us the go-ahead goal to seal the deal. Now we wait to see who makes it out of the knockout round.
Seattle Sounders: It is finally time to defend our cup.This year has been such an up and down year.There are days where we look like the team from last year’s run.And then there are games where we look like a team that hasn’t even played together before.
The game against FC Dallas gives me hope that maybe we are turning a corner.With a win on Sunday gives us a much needed bye.This will give the team time to heal up.I can’t wait for this run at the MLS cup.I really hope the top team in the East loses so we can host the cup this year!!
Vancouver Whitecaps: The Whitecaps were able to pull themselves above the red line in a very decisive way, landing themselves in 3rd place in the Western conference after flirting with the top spot for a hot minute. They will meet the San Jose Earthquakes in the knockout round at home in Vancouver. This is a decided advantage for the Whitecaps, as BC Place has been a fortress for the team this season.
*Houston Dynamo: The Dynamo played VERY well at home this year, giving up only one game at home at BBVA during the regular season. And they have to be looking forward to the opportunity to take on Sporting KC again, having just beaten them at home less than two weeks ago and drawing them in Kansas City shortly thereafter. If they manage to pull it off, their next opponent will be one of the top two finishers in the West, Portland or Seattle.
Sporting KC: I am not pleased with how this season ended, and I am not pleased that Sporting fell from 1st to 5th in the West over the last third of the season. If we’re going to make it anywhere in the playoffs we have to do one thing…score goals. It seems like that should be pretty easy, but obviously it’s not since SKC scored just 3 goals in their last 5 games.
If the Sporting team from the beginning of the season comes back then we could be in good shape, but the run will be hard since we have no home field advantage. Hopefully, with this being the third game against Houston in a two week span we’ll have them figured out. Sporting, don’t make this city regret all the energy you put into the US Open Cup. We need some of that magic for the playoffs.
*San Jose Earthquakes: The Quakes had a wild finish to the regular season, with the winning goal coming three minutes into stoppage time against expansion side Minnesota United. Now they travel to Canada on only three days rest for a single game elimination round. They may still manage the upset against a Whitecaps squad that is struggling to put games away at precisely the wrong time in the season.
If San Jose can pull it off, they will face Portland in a conference semifinal, a team they’ve beaten at home twice during the regular season.
(Teams marked with a * do not have an official reporter from MLSFemale. If you support any of these teams, find your inner reporter and contact us!)
I have held on writing this article because I’ve been processing and crying and then processing and crying, and then processing and gearing up to fight.
Leaked early by Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl late Monday night and announced by Anthony Precourt on Tuesday, Precourt is looking at “possibly” moving the team to Austin, Texas after the Crew’s 2018 season if a downtown stadium can not be built in Columbus. I say “possibly” because everything Precourt has done screams that he has no intention of keeping the Crew in Columbus, no matter what the city does to appease his demands.
Precourt didn’t even make the announcement in Columbus, leaving the players and coaches to deal with the media alone after just finding out about this Tuesday morning. He’s flown to Austin to meet with city leadership. Our mayor has stated that while they have discussed some options, the ownership of the team has not really been fully engaged.
He has ignored an offer by local Columbus partners to invest and become 50% owners. It’s been rumored that these local investors offered $75 million for a 50% share in the team, which is more than he paid when he purchased the team. There’s a huge trail of clues that this has been Precourt’s intention for some time.
I don’t know if Precourt thought we would roll over and let this happen. This is just an illustration of how out of touch Precourt is with the fans of the team he owns and the city where it is located. Immediately, cries of #savethecrew spead across twitter and the rest of the internet.
Then, it went beyond just Crew fans. It has spread across the league, and then to other leagues, and then continued to spread even further. They all realize that Columbus is an important part of MLS history as one of the original teams. They all realize that if the MLS allows this to happen, then no team is safe. They all know how it feels to really love a soccer team. They know how much it would hurt to lose it. So they are supporting the fans of the Crew.
They are doing things like changing their own teams’ badges to black and gold, tweeting and writing owners about how bad this decision would be, volunteering to hang banners in their own stadiums. We, as a soccer community are united and it brought, and continues to bring, tears to my eyes. How we all realize these things, and Anthony Precourt doesn’t, is beyond me.
So, how can you help?
If you are in or can get to Columbus this Sunday, October 22nd, attend the rally at Columbus’s City Hall at noon.
If you are in Columbus or not, you can still help.
Contact the cooperate sponsors of the Crew and let them know how you feel about this.
Contact other MLS teams encouraging them to not allow this to happen.
Sign the petition to save the Crew.
Tweet about saving the Crew.
Bring banners about this and wear yellow to your teams’ matches.
Do not let them forget this after a few days. Keep doing these things.
All the information about all those activities (including the petition) can be found at savethecrew.com including email template letters to the corporate sponsors of the Crew and to the MLS teams (along with contact information).
In many ways, the Crew has saved me with the community and family it has provided to me. So, it is time for us to Save the Crew. Please help us do it. #savethecrew