It’s been a fast start for Crew 2 to the team’s first-ever MLS NEXT Pro campaign. After losing the first game of the season 2-0 to Inter Miami II, the Black & Gold reserve team has reeled off three straight wins, including a pair of 1-0 victories against the Chicago Fire 2 and Philadelphia Union II, respectively. The group followed up their three-game road trip to start the season with a 2-0 victory over Orlando City B to reopen, so to speak, Historic Crew Stadium, the team’s new home after the first team moved to Lower.com Field las summer.
With that, Crew 2 is going for a fourth straight win when the team welcomes Toronto FC II to Historic Crew Stadium, in the reserve version of the Trillium Cup, on Sunday afternoon. Columbus comes into this match atop the Eastern Conference in MLS NEXT Pro, while Toronto FC II currently sits just outside the final playoff spot in the East, three points behind the Sunday hosts.
“We had a little chip on our shoulder,” Crew 2 head coach Laurent Courtois said about playing the team’s first home game at Historic Crew Stadium last week. “The guys were so pumped that I was kind of concerned that they would try so hard, but they responded.”
In his time speaking with the media this week, Courtois made it clear that he likes how his team is shaping up. It’s not just that the group is getting results, but also how quickly the players have gelled and developed chemistry with each other.
“I'm surprised how this group, composed of a lot of individuals is becoming a team and a collective,” the coach said this week.
With TFC II coming to town Sunday, the Black and Gold reserve team is looking for the same support the team received for the Orlando City B match last weekend. After playing in front of nearly empty stadiums in the first three away games, even the sparse crowd that arrived at Historic Crew Stadium for the first-ever home Crew 2 game, including a vocal group in the Nordecke, was nice to see.
Courtois hopes to see more Columbus fans coming out for this weekend’s match.
“We were expecting a good crowd, but we still were a little bit surprised how well they responded,” he said of the support they received from fans in their home opener.
In Toronto, the Black & Gold face another team off to a good start this year. The Reds are 2-1 through three games and may prove to be Crew 2’s toughest test of the season.
“Toronto is really dangerous, especially in transition,” Courtois said. “They are really dynamic and comfortable in tight spaces.”
TFC will have the task of breaking down a tough Columbus defense, one that has only conceded two goals all season and has kept three consecutive clean sheets. This team will want to keep that streak going on Sunday.
While the defense has been solid, the Black & Gold offense has also shown up when needed. Crew 2 has scored in three straight games, including the first multi-goal game last week in the win at home.
“I think we will come out the same way that we have the last couple of games”, Crew 2 forward Jacen Russell-Rowe said of the matchup against Toronto. “I feel like we can really bring the game to them.”
Russell-Rowe has also scored in the past two games and is currently Columbus’ leading goalscorer who hopes to add in that department in front of the home fans Sunday.
As the first team did on the way to an MLS Cup title in 2020, Crew 2 hopes to make Historic Crew Stadium a fortress, a place that other teams do not want to go and play. Columbus hopes Sunday that TFC becomes its second victim on the fairgrounds.
The Black & Gold and Toronto kick off at 2 p.m. ET. All MLS NEXT Pro games can be streamed live on mlsnextpro.com.