The Columbus Crew has two weeks left of the preseason and on Friday announced the team’s remaining preseason games. The Black & Gold heads to Orlando, Florida on March 21 where they will train and play four MLS teams behind closed doors over the next two weeks. These games will serve as tune-ups for the Crew’s first match of the season in Managua, Nicaragua against Real Esteli in the CONCACAF Champions League.
First will be a tie against New York City FC on March 24 at 7 p.m. ET. The game will take place at Al Lang Stadium in Saint Petersburg, Florida, which is the home venue for the Tampa Bay Rowdies of the USL. The two sides met three times during the 2020 season with Columbus winning two of the three encounters. Both Black & Gold wins were at home while the lone loss to City was on the road in August.
March 27 will be the Crew’s second preseason match against Orlando City SC at 7 p.m. ET. The Lions hosted Columbus for the two teams’ lone match in 2020 last November which resulted in a 2-1 win for Orlando. The teams will meet with no spectators at Exploria Stadium, which has become a hotbed for soccer during the COVID-19 pandemic. Outside of Orlando City games, the stadium had hosted the 2020 CONCACAF Champions League, the SheBelieves Cup and multiple United States Men’s National Team games.
The last two preseason matches will be played back-to-back at a venue very familiar to the Crew, the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. The MLS is Back Tournament venue will be the site for Columbus’ March 31 encounter with Minnesota United and an April 1 match against Toronto FC. In the four ga,es the Black & Gold played at the MLS is Back Tournament, the team never lost with three group stage wins and a penalty shootout loss to the Loons.
The preseason match between Columbus and Minnesota will be a reunion for players on both sides. The Black & Gold recently acquired former MNUFC starters Kevin Molino and Marlon Hairston while the Loons have former Crew players Ethan Finlay, Wil Trapp and Niko Hansen. After the two sides clashed in Orlando last year at the MLS is Back Tournament, it seemed destined the Crew would meet Minnesota in the 2020 MLS Cup Final. The Seattle Sounders crushed that possibility, however, in the last minute of the Western Conference Final.
Last season, the Crew suffered its worse loss away from home against Toronto. The September match in Hartford, Connecticut ended in a 3-1 defeat for the Black & Gold that started a four-game winless run. The teams were expected to meet again during last year’s MLS Cup playoffs but TFC was knocked out in an upset loss to Nashville SC 2-0 in extra time.
The MLS regular season schedule is expected to be announced next week with just the home openers for each team on the slate thus far. The Crew is set to host the Philadelphia Union on April 18 for the first game of the 2021 Major League Soccer regular season.