More than three hours past the originally scheduled kickoff time, the Crew finally started their road game against Charlotte FC. Fifteen minutes of playing time later, there was another delay of 45 minutes before the game was postponed. The Crew arrived back in Columbus at 3 a.m.
“Obviously it was a bit of an annoying day for our guys,” coach Caleb Porter said. “There’s no way around that. The guys were frustrated that they sat around all day, and they get out there and we’re flying. It looked like there was going to be a result there for us.”
Even if the Crew played on Saturday, this week would have been huge in how it could factor into the Crew’s chances of being a top-four seed and getting a home playoff game or not.
That’s because the Crew (7-5-9, 30 points) host third-place CF Montreal (11-8-3, 36 points) on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. and second-place New York City FC (12-4-6, 42 points) on Saturday night.
Caleb Porter: ‘We need to get three points’
“I think there’s another level in this team,” Porter said. “I think looking at Montreal, having them ahead of us should give our guys a lot of hunger and drive and determination to move closer to that top four. We need to – for sure, with a team that’s right there near us within touching distance – we need to get three points.”
The Crew are on a nine-game unbeaten streak, but it’s been nearly 11 days since they last played with just one win in four home games during that stretch. In those home games Columbus scored a mere three goals. Forward Cucho Hernandez was on the roster for only two of those contests. His addition should bolster the offense moving forward, but the team feels a pressure to play tougher at Lower.com Field.
Captain and center back Jonathan Mensah said he recently thought about how important home games were in 2020 when the Crew were able to host every playoff game and win the MLS Cup. So far this season, the Crew have just 15 of a possible 30 points at home.
Doing better in that area is one of the last remaining pieces of the puzzle to potentially making this season a memorable one.
“I don’t like to look back but sometimes you need to,” Mensah said. “Finishing top four, you know you’re guaranteed maybe one or two home games. … It’s very important that we finish top four.”
In reality, NYCFC, Saturday’s opponent, is more than likely too far out of reach for the Crew to catch. At best, at the end of the week, the Crew would be six points back of NYCFC with 11 games to play. Montreal, however, is an entirely different story. With two wins this week, the Crew could be in a tie for third place. A loss to Montreal, on the other hand, would turn a six-point gap into a much more difficult to navigate nine-point difference between them.
“Playing top half of the table two teams in a row is going to be a good test for us,” Mensah said. “We just need to bring our A-game and make sure we get more points, especially at home.”
Record: 7-5-9, 30 pts., 6th in East
Projected Starting XI (4-2-3-1):
Eloy Room (goalkeeper), Josh Williams (center back), Jonathan Mensah (center back), Pedro Santos (left back), Steven Moreira (right back), Darlington Nagbe (central midfielder), Aidan Morris (central midfielder), Derrick Etienne Jr. (right winger), Lucas Zelarayan (attacking midfielder), Luis Diaz (winger), Cucho Hernandez (forward)
What to watch: If the Crew want to slow down Montreal, they’ll have to manage attacking midfielder Djordje Mihailovic. The 23-year-old American is having a phenomenal year with seven goals and four assists.
Record: 11-8-3, 36 pts., 3rd in East
Projected Starting XI (3-1-4-2):
James Pantemis (goalkeeper), Kamal Miller (center back), Rudy Camacho (center back), Joel Waterman (center back), Victor Wanyama (defensive midfielder), Lassi Lappalainen (left midfielder), Djordje Mihailovic (attacking midfielder), Samuel Piette (central midfielder), Alistair Johnston (right midfielder), Romell Quioto (forward), Mason Toye (forward)
Columbus 1, CF Montreal 0: Montreal found a way on the weekend against NYCFC to hold New York to no goals. Montreal also couldn’t score against a defense that has similar metrics to the Crew’s defense. On the road, it’s likely Montreal will try to sit back and take away Cucho Hernandez and Lucas Zelarayan. But unlike New England, the Crew come out strong in the first half and find the goal they need to take three points.
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