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Massive Predictions: Crew at Philadelphia Union

Can the Black & Gold open the 2023 season with a win?

Philadelphia Union v Los Angeles Football Club: - 2022 MLS Cup Final Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

To begin the 2023 Major League Soccer season, the Columbus Crew travel to take on the Philadelphia Union, the reigning Eastern Conference Champions. All-time, the Crew is 14-11-6 against the Union, although the Black & Gold have lost the last two games.

A lot has changed for Columbus during the 2022 offseason. New head coach Wilfried Nancy was hired from CF Montreal, captain Jonathan Mensah was traded to the San Jose Earthquakes and fan favorites Pedro Santos, Derrick Etienne Jr. and Artur have departed from the club.

The Union, meanwhile, return much of the same team that lost to LAFC in penalty kicks in the MLS Cup Final to conclude the 2022 season. There is a lot of optimism in Philadelphia about this year, but the Crew hopes to spoil the season-opening party.

Can they do it? Here is how the Massive Report staff predicts the season opener will go.

Drew McDaniel

There will be growing pains of changing your head coach and trading your captain before playing the defending Eastern Conference champs who returned all of their starters. I think this match will be much more interesting than the 0-0 season-opening draw versus Philadelphia at the beginning of the 2021 season. The Union will win as Columbus has a decent showing, but not enough to get past Philadelphia goalkeeper Andre Blake.

Philadelphia Union 1 Columbus Crew 0

Caleb Denorme

It’s finally here ladies and gentlemen, the Crew returns to action this Saturday as they travel to Philly to take on the Union. Playing the first game of a new season with a new head coach against the defending Eastern Conference champions is no easy task, but I see Columbus getting a draw out of this game. The Crew has a quality team with some big stars and solid players, but it will take time for them to learn Wilfried Nancy’s system. Once they do, the rest of MLS should watch out because this team can become very dangerous down the stretch once they learn how to play under Nancy. Forward Cucho Hernandez will get his first goal of the season but the Union will answer back with a goal from Mikael Uhre to force the points to be shared on opening weekend.

Columbus Crew 1 Philadelphia Union 1

Collin Johnson

We’re back! An almost totally new-look Crew team takes on the 2022 Eastern Conference champion, Philadelphia Union, on the road to kick off 2023. This is certainly not an ideal way to start the season. Columbus will be a work in progress but still has the pieces to score some goals and a new manager who will push the team into a different style. That new style might be enough to throw off the Union and grab a win on the road to kick off the season but that would be a tall ask of the Black & Gold. With nine Eastern Conference teams making the 2023 MLS Cup playoffs, the Crew has a bit of leeway with the team’s play in the early season. A few dropped points will sting much less than they would have last season. I expect the new-look Columbus side to jump out to an early lead before giving up a goal right after the half but escaping with a draw.

Columbus Crew 1 Philadelphia Union 1

Grant Miller

Chester, Pennsylvania is where dreams go to die. One bad result won’t kill the entire Crew season, but a Week 1 matchup against the conference favorites isn’t exactly a recipe for success. The Black & Gold will be without starting goalkeeper Eloy Room and the defensive unit in front of backup Evan Bush will not have Johnathan Mensah in its ranks. Expect some growing pains early this season.

Philadelphia Union 3 Columbus Crew 0

Brian Moracz

As far as I am concerned, the Philadelphia Union is the class of not only the Eastern Conference but all of MLS. While I have generally high expectations for this season, I don’t expect Saturday’s game in Philadelphia to be fruitful for the Crew. The Black & Gold will take some time to come together as they get comfortable playing in a new system and integrating new and younger players. The Union is on the other end of the spectrum as they begin another season with Jim Curtin at the helm and return basically the same roster that lost the MLS Cup Final in 2022. The Crew will hang tough, but ultimately lose the opener in Philadelphia.

Philadelphia Union 2 Columbus Crew 0

Devin Weisbarth

This is a tough one to predict. It is the first official game under new head coach Wilfried Nancy and a lot of familiar faces are no longer on the Crew’s roster. It’s also not an easy task to open up the season on the road against the defending Eastern Conference champions. Columbus’s games against Philadelphia always seem to end up in a 0-0 draw. The Crew hasn’t scored against Philly in their past five meetings, with Philly winning three of those, two of which were 1-0. I expect the Black & Gold to play well, and the threat of Cucho Hernandez and Lucas Zelarayan are always there.

Columbus Crew 1 Philadelphia Union 1

Patrick Murphy

A new era of Columbus Crew soccer begins on Saturday, and it would be hard for it to start with a more difficult game. The Philadelphia Union came a penalty kick shootout away from winning the team’s first MLS Cup title a few months back and returns nearly the entire roster that tied for the best record in MLS last year. Oh, and the Black & Gold have to go to Chester, Pennsylvania to start the year. I guess it could be worse and the game could have been postponed.

I think this is going to be a tough one for the Crew. Expect plenty of overreactions from Black & Gold faithful after this one. But there is plenty of season remaining.

Philadelphia Union 3 Columbus Crew 1

Nathan Townsend

The Crew has a difficult test in the team’s first match of the season against last year’s MLS Cup runners-up, Philadelphia Union. The Union has a well-disciplined side that will be hungry to pick up where it left off last season. The Crew, on the other hand, will need a few games to fully realize coach Wilfried Nancy’s vision for the team. This will likely be tough going for the Crew, and keeping it close against a team that finished last season with a +46 goal differential would be an achievement.

Philadelphia Union 2 Columbus Crew 1

Adam Miller

The Crew enters 2023 with a sense of cautious optimism surrounding the team. With new coach Wilfried Nancy, there is much intrigue around this team. What formation will they play? Who’s going to play center back? How does Nancy fit Cucho Hernandez and Lucas Zelaryan together? We will get some answers on Saturday, but not all.

Regardless, the Crew faces a tough task in the MLS Cup 2022 runners-up, Philadelphia Union. As is common with early season MLS, I expect both teams to struggle early to get a rhythm and it will result in a slow, boring first half. As the game wears on, the match will pick up some steam. The Crew will score first, thanks to a Hernandez goal, before Philly equalizes shortly after.

Columbus Crew 1 Philadelphia Union 1

Austin Mucchetti

With the Crew looking to showcase a new-look attack under head coach Wilfried Nancy and the Philadelphia Union looking to bounce back from an unfortunate penalty shootout loss against LAFC in last season’s MLS Cup Final, I expect this game to be end-to-end. I think Cucho Hernandez will have a strong performance and I see him scoring a pair of goals. That being said, time and time again the Union has proven the team shouldn’t be underestimated. Jim Curtain has managed to form a strong side that blends youth with experience, giving opportunities to U.S. youth internationals Quinn Sullivan and Jack McGlynn while sticking with veterans Andre Blake and Alejandro Bedoya. My prediction is that this game will end in a narrow draw.

Columbus Crew 2 Philadelphia Union 2

Ryan Schmitt

The Crew enters the 2023 MLS season with a clean slate. A new head coach, a new playing style and a new outlook on the soccer that the team plays. Given the Black & Gold play the Philadelphia Union at home and the Union still has Andre Blake in goal, it will be a low-scoring game. I think the Crew opens the season with a tie, getting a good point on the road against a very strong opponent.

Columbus Crew 1 Philadelphia Union 1

Have a prediction for tonight’s match? Let us know your score in the comment section below.