Today MLS announced the matches for First Kick 2016, and Columbus Crew SC fans discovered that the Black & Gold will be hitting the road to face the Portland Timbers in a rematch of the 2015's MLS Cup Final. The match, which will be televised nationally on ESPN and will kick off at 4:30 p.m., EST on Sunday, March 6.
Columbus did not feature in many nationally televised matchups over the past few seasons, appearing just three times last season, but the allure of an opening week Cup Final rematch was too much for the league and broadcasters to resist.
Crew SC have only played in Portland once, a 3-3 draw in May of 2014. That match featured a double by Federico Higuain (including a sweet Pipa Chip) and a goal from Ethan Finlay, both of whom are projected to return to the Black & Gold for 2016.
This storyline really writes itself, with Columbus looking to avenge its MLS Cup loss, and Portland trying to begin its title defense with a win over their vanquished opponents.
The home opener will be the following week, on Saturday March 12, where Crew SC will host the Philadelphia Union. The Black & Gold have won 10 of the 15 all-time meetings against the Union, drawing once and dropping four. The Union have never won at MAPFRE (formerly Columbus Crew) Stadium with their lone point coming in 2013 in a 1-1 draw. Columbus took the 2015 season series with two wins and one loss, with the lone match played at MAPFRE ending 4-1 to the home side.
The remaining Crew SC schedule, along with the rest of the MLS fixtures, will be released in the coming weeks.