When Columbus Crew SC returned to full training capacity a couple of weeks ago, there was still an important element missing from the team’s activities as Eloy Room, who had left Ohio to be with his wife during the birth of their first daughter in the Netherlands, was still out of the country.
The 31-year-old goalkeeper has been back in Columbus since last weekend after spending most of the coronavirus pandemic hiatus in Europe. And after a full week of work at the team’s training facility in Obetz, he feels ready for the trip to Orlando, where the Black & Gold will resume their season at the MLS is Back Tournament at the beginning of July.
“It feels really good (to be back),” he said. “I missed the guys, missed the team and missed being busy with the ball in training, so I’m happy to be back. Now we need to start over again. We need to start training hard and then start competing, but I think we’ll be ready for the tournament. The guys did all the things at home, everybody is excited and we’re ready to go.”
The Crew will travel to Florida on Sunday, June 28, and will see action for the first time one week later as the club has scheduled a pair of closed-door 90-minute scrimmages against Minnesota United on July 5. It will be the first time the team has seen the field since March 7, when the Black & Gold tied 1-1 with the Seattle Sounders on the road in the last match before play was stopped due to the pandemic. This followed a 1-0 home win against New York City FC to open the 2020 season.
As head coach Caleb Porter said, the Curacao international shot-stopper also considers the friendly match a very important step towards the return to play for the team.
“I take it really seriously,” Room added. “It’s the last game before the tournament, so it’s when we can see where everybody is and when you can show yourself to the coaching staff. It will be a really good moment to see where we’re at and then we can compete in a real tournament.”
It’s the first match of the MLS is Back Tournament, however, that really has the goalkeeper excited about the time he and the team will spend in Florida. The Crew’s opening match in the tournament will be against in-state rivals FC Cincinnati on July 11 and it is one Room has already been thinking about it.
Inspired by the Crew’s success in the “Hell is Real” derby last season, which was highlighted by a 3-1 win on the rivals’ pitch at Nippert Stadium at the end of August, the goalkeeper is pumped to meet FC Cincy again when the Black & Gold resume their season in two weeks.
“It’s nice to have that first match against Cincinnati because of the rivalry,” he reflected. “In the last game we beat them really hard, so it will be nice to see them again. It’s a good opening match to show where we’re at.”