If you can believe it, there are just 16 days until the calendar rolls over to 2022 and 72 days until a new Major League Soccer campaign kicks off. The full 2022 MLS schedule was released on Wednesday and it's a schedule that Columbus Crew fans are excited about.
This year marks the first full season of action inside of the friendly confines of Lower.com Field, but also serves as a chance to purge the bad memories and moments from the 2021 season.
If the Black & Gold are going to be successful in this upcoming campaign, they are going to need to get points from key matchups throughout the season. We’ve gone through the schedule and picked out some of the best matchups that await the Crew this season or some things that stand out.
Feb. 26 vs. Vancouver Whitecaps
It’s the earliest start to an MLS season ever and hopefully, fans have already begun preparing for the cold conditions that will likely greet them in the Arena District. An early-season matchup against the Whitecaps is intriguing because it’s a team that the Crew hasn’t historically enjoyed a lot of success against.
Columbus is just 2-5-3 all-time against Vancouver and hasn’t captured a victory against the Canadian side since July 2011, so a strong start is paramount. That being said, the Black & Gold have taken at least a share of the points against the Whitecaps (0-1-2) in their last three meetings but also haven’t seen the Western Conference foe since 2019.
March 12th vs. Toronto FC
Staying with home games against Canadian opponents, the Crew welcomes Trillium Cup rivals Toronto to Lower.com Field for the first time on March 12. Despite enjoying recent success against the Black & Gold, going 3-1-1, TFC has floundered in the Eastern Conference standings, finishing just above FC Cincinnati in 13th place this past season.
Looking to remedy that is new head coach and sporting director Bob Bradley, who comes over from LAFC and hopes to return Toronto back to prominence with his son Michael Bradley. This contest will be a great early-season chess match for Caleb Porter and the Crew.
May 7 at New England Revolution
How or why it happened is unknown but the Revolution somehow suffered a disappointing early exit from the MLS Cup playoffs this past season despite the best regular season point total in MLS history. New England remains a promising team that has ascended to the top of the league and with the blockbuster acquisition of Sebastian Lleget on Thursday, has just fortified their ranks and isn’t in a rush to relinquish that position anytime soon.
Despite being swept by the Black & Gold in 2019 and downed in the playoffs in 2020, New England has rebounded and become a serious threat under the watchful eye of Bruce Arena.
Not only did the Revs nearly spoil Lower.com Field’s opening day but they gave Columbus a run for their money throughout the 2021 season en route to the Supporters Shield. If the Crew can take points away from the Revolution early on, it could be a good barometer of how the Black & Gold will be in the new season.
May 14 at New York City FC
There is a weird mystique that surrounds New York City when the team plays at Yankee Stadium. The reigning MLS Cup champions are borderline untouchable there. The Crew looks to snap a four-game losing streak against the class of the league when traveling to the Bronx.
Now the venue for the game hasn’t been certainly determined but if it happens to be at Red Bull Arena or Hartford, Connecticut, on a real soccer pitch, then Columbus’ chances of winning drastically go up.
June 18 vs Charlotte FC
Unlike past seasons of MLS expansion, it doesn’t feel like Charlotte is coming in with much fanfare or has pissed anyone off.
I don’t expect much from this game. It should be fun and maybe fans will make a few friends along the way.
July 3 vs Philadelphia Union
It’s the birthday of Lower.com Field and it feels like a high school homecoming game where a team schedules an easy opponent to get the win and everyone goes home happy. The Crew is 3-0 against the Union at home since 2019, outscoring the visitors by a 5-1 margin.
Last year, Philadelphia claimed a season sweep against Columbus but both games were played in Chester, Pennsylvania. The Black & Gold will look to continue their home success against Philly and get an important win on the anniversary of the opening of Lower.com Field.
July 17 vs FC Cincinnati
Does this game need any more hype?
If you’ve never been to a Hell is Real Derby matchup, you need to stop reading this article and go buy a ticket.
Sept. 18 vs Portland Timbers
It’s a big matchup for the Crew as well as head coach Caleb Porter as this contest marks the Timbers’ first trip to Columbus since April 2019 and second against the team’s former head coach.
Portland defeated Columbus 3-1 back in April 2019 and has taken six-of-seven games against the Black & Gold dating back to their meeting on Sept. 26, 2015. The last Crew victory against Portland in Central Ohio came on March 25, 2017, when Ola Kamara, Niko Hansen and Justin Meram all found the back of the net to power the Columbus to a 3-2 victory.
Since that win, the Timbers have outscored the Black & Gold by a 6-3 margin en route to two consecutive victories.