Another day in 2020 with another new Major League Soccer schedule to breakdown for Columbus Crew SC.
The top team in MLS will conclude Phase One of the regular season restart tomorrow afternoon at Soldier Field against the Chicago Fire. After that, Columbus now knows how the team will start Phase Two of the schedule with three more matches announced that will end September.
The Crew will start Phase Two at home on Saturday, Sept. 19 with the team’s first-ever match against Nashville SC. Following that will be a midweek contest at MAPFRE Stadium against MLS is Back knockout opposition, Minnesota United. To end September, Columbus will travel to East Hartford, Connecticut and play Toronto FC for the first time in 2020 in what could be an Eastern Conference Final preview.
This schedule’s most noticeable tidbit is there is no true away game for the Crew, with Toronto having to play at a neutral venue due to Canada’s travel restrictions. The other noticeable tidbit is two more home games for Columbus in a short time-span with Nashville coming to Ohio’s capital on Saturday and then Minnesota following just three days later.
This is only the beginning of Phase Two with the league stating each of the three phases of the schedule will consist of six games, so there is still more to come. For the time being, let’s look into what will be the Crew’s toughest stretch of games in 2020.
Opponent 1 - Nashville SC
On paper, this is the weakest team of the three on this new schedule reveal but Columbus should not underestimate the new kids on the block in MLS. Nashville SC has started to develop a great defense anchored and led by United States international Walker Zimmerman. Nashville currently sits in 11th place in the East but is on a three-match unbeaten run.
During this run, Nashville has conceded just one goal and in nine games this season is only allowing one goal peer game. Scoring is the major issue for the Tennessee side with a measly five goals for, which is last in the league. The offensive threat lacks much venom which could provide for an easy night for the strong Columbus defense next Saturday. Scoring will be the challenge in this game for both teams.
Opponent 2 - Minnesota United
The match at MAPFRE Stadium on Sept. 23 will be a revenge game for Caleb Porter and his squad. The Loons come to Columbus and since they defeated the Crew on penalties at MLS is Back Tournament, the group has been a mixed package.
Minnesota started the regular season restart with three consecutive losses with just two goals scored and eight goals conceded. Since then, the Loons have roared back with two big wins against Real Salt Lake 4-0 and FC Dallas 3-2. Minnesota will end Phase One on the road against Sporting Kansas City on Sunday.
Thanks to those two recent wins, Minnesota sits in second place in the Western Conference, only on one extra goal scored above Kansas City. With more film to analyze, Columbus can figure out how to breakdown the Loons defense that caused trouble against in Orlando. Minnesota is dangerous on set pieces and Adrian Heath has his squad incredibly organized. A true East vs. West battle for certain and a return to Columbus for current Loons attackers Ethan Finlay and Aaron Schoenfeld.
Opponent 3 - Toronto FC
This is not an exaggeration. This match against Toronto is the biggest game for the Crew this season. It’s going to be played at Rentschler Field at Pratt & Whitney Stadium in East Hartford, Connecticut, the venue for UCONN Huskies football and soccer. In all likelihood, this will be a game between the top two teams in the East.
Toronto has got the top offense in the East with 18 goals scored and in the team’s all-Canadian matches in Phase One, the Reds won four of six. It will be a big change of pace for TFC when Phase Two starts since they have played the same two teams over the last month. Toronto playss D.C. United first at Audi Field and then New York City FC at Red Bull Arena. Three games at three different venues for Toronto.
The attack is what makes this team so good. Alejandro Pozuelo is the best assister in MLS and has Jozy Altidore and breakout striker Ayo Akinola to score those goals. This is the best offense the Columbus defense will face in 2020 and if the Crew wants to prove it has a historically great defense, shutting down this team would go a long way.