Take a look through the Columbus Crew SC schedule so far. Notice any repetition?
The Black & Gold have already played each of the Chicago Fire and Toronto FC twice. On Sunday, Crew SC faces the New England Revolution for the second time and next week the team sees TFC for the third time.
After these two games, Columbus will not see either Toronto or New England again in 2017, save for a potential playoff match. Chicago doesn’t show up on the schedule again until mid-August.
“It’s weird,” Crew SC head coach Gregg Berhalter said of the start to the season. “The league schedules opponents sometimes in short succession and it’s difficult because we’re playing New England and Toronto four times in five games.”
While it is a strange way to setup the schedule, it’s not uncommon in Major League Soccer. Last season, the Black & Gold played the Reds twice in 18 days in July and the Fire back to back in October. Similar instances occured in other years as well.
“It’s strange, but it’s something you just deal with and it’s something we’re used to dealing with,” Berhalter said.
It’s also something Columbus hopes to deal with later in the year. If the Black & Gold make the playoffs, back-to-back games like this become the norm.
“Listen, if you’re in the playoffs, you’re going to be experiencing that,” Berhalter said. “If you’re in anything but the knockout round and the final. The conference semifinals and finals certainly have that.”
Although Crew SC didn’t qualify for the postseason last year, the team did in each of Berhalter’s previous two seasons.
In the first year, the Black & Gold were bounced in the first round by the Revolution, but in 2015 Columbus made a run to the MLS Cup Final.
If these games are any indication of potential playoff success in 2017, the Black & Gold are not doing too well. Crew SC is 0-1-1 against the Fire and 1-1 (tied on goal differential) against TFC. The Black & Gold did defeat the Revs when the two sides met three weeks ago and look to go 2-0 agaisnt the Boston-based club this season on Sunday.
Like in the postseason, this means making adjustments between meetings and planning for what the other team is going to do. According to Berhalter, though, that isn’t too much different than the weekly preparation.
“Certainly,” Berhalter agreed. “Adjusting for their adjustments or game planning about what they can possibly do. That’s what you do every game. I guess it could be magnified if you’re playing them close after another.”
Although the situation is not the most conveneint for clubs, it’s something teams manage throughout the course of the year. According to Berhalter, it’s also good practice for what Crew SC hopes they’ll face following the end of the regular season.
“I think it’s good.” he said. “It could be a dry run of what to expect in the playoffs.”