Columbus Crew SC begins their run for the Lamar Hunt Open Cup when they take on the Pittsburgh Riverhounds on Tuesday, June 11 at MAPFRE Stadium.
The Black & Gold are coming off of a 2-2 draw against New York City FC. With over three weeks’ rest between their match against NYCFC and their next MLS match, they have been able to take the time to focus on preparing for Tuesday’s match.
“Right now, we are focused on the Open Cup and this next match on Tuesday and getting a win,” said head coach Caleb Porter. “And continuing to grow, work hard in training, and gain confidence.”
As for the Riverhounds, they advanced to the Fourth Round of Open Cup play on Wednesday, May 29, when an 85th-minute goal from Kenardo Forbes put the Hounds past Indy Eleven.
In league play, Pittsburgh currently sits in 14th place of 18 teams in the Eastern Conference of the USL Championship with a record of 2-6-2 (8 pts.). On Saturday, June 1 they lost to Indy Eleven 2-1 after going up 1-0 in the first half.
Before Tuesday’s match, the Hounds will play one more USL Championship match when they host Ottawa Fury FC on Saturday, June 8.
When asked about the Riverhounds, Porter emphasized the importance that the team does not take any competition lightly, regardless of division.
“They have some good players, a few guys that have been in the MLS and have experience in the MLS. I know that they are capable,” he said. “They are going to be throwing everything into this game. Every time you see a USL team play an MLS team, there is a lot on the line. They want to prove that they are good enough. We can’t take them lightly.”
With a playoff format, where you must win or go home, teams often play with a different level of intensity.
“The thing with the tournament type of matches,” explained midfielder David Guzman, "is that they are different. They are in many ways similar to international match with the intensity that comes with them and the MLS is playing at a high-level now and is very respected, so the quality of the tournament will continue to elevate."
The Black & Gold do not want to shy away from this intensity of play, and instead, they want to use this as an opportunity to also raise their level of play.
“We are always focused on doing a great job,” said midfielder Robinho, “because when you play in matches like that, the teams step up. We are going to focus here to do the same for the Open Cup.“
The winner of the U.S. Open Cup qualifies directly for the Concacaf Champions League with a chance to qualify for the FIFA Club World Cup, a tournament featuring champion clubs from each of the six continental confederations. And according to Guzman, this is one of the goals for Crew SC.
“We need to win because if you win the Open Cup you get a spot in the [Concacaf Champions League],” he said, “so we are going to go out there and do our best and try to earn that spot.”