Tough Road for the Crew
Columbus gets a nice break this weekend just in time for a brutal stretch run. The team will be tested against some of the best teams in MLS and the region. The Crew play 7 games in MLS competition and still have 4 Champions League games remaining, with September being especially busy.
The Crew earned 9 points in August, but will be hard pressed to match that form in September. Columbus returns to action by facing the current league leading Houston Dynamo at Crew Stadium on Sunday the 13th. The following week, Columbus travels to second place Chicago on the 20th. They finish up with a matchup against the surging L.A. Galaxy on the 26th at home. They face the three best teams in the league other than themselves in three straight weeks.
The tough league schedule is coupled with a packed Champions League calendar. Two days after the Houston game, the Crew head south to Costa Rica to play Saprissa. The next week they face Cruz Azul at Crew Stadium, and follow it up with a home date on another midweek match against Saprissa. That is six games total over three weeks and a lot of travelling. Team depth will be challenged as Columbus will try to maintain momentum in both competitions while flying all over the continent.
October is slightly kinder to the Crew. A suddenly struggling Seattle team arrives on the 3rd. Columbus then has back to back away games, first against a revived Revolution squad and then against D.C. United. The Crew’s long road swing continues as they head south to Puerto Rico to take on the Islanders, before closing out the season at home against the Revs.
It is a brutal stretch of games. The team’s performance in September will decide if the Crew have a chance at the Supporters Shield and going through to the next round in the Champions League. How well Columbus handles this month will also reveal how important October will be. A struggling Crew team fighting for position in two tournaments could leave them spent before the playoffs even begin.
Realistically, I see the Crew getting 4 out of 9 points in MLS this month and picking up a win against Saprissa at home and maybe a tie in Costa Rica. I fully expect Cruz Azul to beat the Crew up here unless they send a “B team”. That leaves the Crew in the mix for the first spot in the East and possible qualification to the knockout stages in the Champions League. That set of results would also make October very interesting.