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Crew 2 clinches MLS NEXT Pro playoffs

At least one Black & Gold team is headed to the postseason this year.

Columbus Crew 2 has clinched a spot in the MLS NEXT Pro playoffs. The Black & Gold secured the team’s place in the postseason on Wednesday night due to New York City FC II losing to Philadelphia Union 2 following a dramatic comeback. Columbus holds a 13-3-4 record, with one shootout win, and sits on 44 points through 20 games played.

Crew 2 has been at the top of the Eastern Conference for nearly the entire MLS NEXT Pro season and is the team first in the East to book its playoff spot. Two Western Conference sides, the Tacoma Defiance and St. Louis City2, have each booked their spot in the postseason as well with Tacoma already locking up a division title.

The Black & Gold have seen a ton of highs this season, going on a seven-game unbeaten streak at one point and scoring 47 goals to 20 allowed. Columbus is currently unbeaten in the team’s last five home matches.

In addition to on-field success, this season has been great for Crew 2 in terms of development, which is the point of the reserve team. The Black & Gold have seen two players receive contracts with Columbus’ first team in forward Jacen Russell-Rowe and defender Mohamed Farsi.

“I sat here at the start of the season and said if we can even get one player to the first team at the end of the season, then we will have done our job,” said Crew 2 captain and midfielder Marco Micaletto earlier this year. “Six months later, we got two and we got plenty of lads that have been able to show the quality and potential to put their names in that bag.”

A ton of praise has to be given to head coach Laurent Courtois, who has kept his side focused all year. While the development of players is key, Courtois has been able to accomplish this while also leading his team to the second-most wins in MLS NEXT Pro.

Courtois’ team has been one of the league’s most consistent. Crew 2 is second in goals scored and has allowed the fewest numbers of goals in MLS NEXT Pro this year. The Black & Gold have done a brilliant job of playing as a complete team, thus allowing those individual performances to happen quite often.

Despite spending time with the first team, Russell-Rowe is tied in the Golden Boot race with 15 goals on the year, while Farsi is tied for second in the league in assists with seven. Goalkeeper Patrick Schulte is also tied for the most clean sheets with six on the season.

Columbus is coming off a penalty shootout win against Orlando City B last week and takes on Philadelphia Union 2 this Saturday at Lower.com Field. Crew 2 has four matches left on the schedule, taking on Philadelphia and Chicago Fire II at home and going away to Inter Miami II and then back at Historic Crew Stadium for a finale of against FC Cincinnati 2 to close the regular season.

Crew 2 has a nine-point lead in the East over second place in Toronto FC II, but will be tested to the end to clinch that top spot. Both Philadelphia and Miami are above the playoff line but will have to earn points to stay there. Neither team afford to lose, so the Bllack & Gold will need to be on top of their game to finish top of the East.