By The Numbers

By The Numbers: Crew host Atlanta United for Crewsmas

Ahem. Singing voices, please. It’s beginning to look a lot like Crewsmas…

Two months after the Columbus Crew lifted the MLS Cup to be crowned league champions, they return to Field on Saturday afternoon for their 2024 regular season curtain raiser against Atlanta United FC.

Here are few numbers you need to know ahead of the season opener:

1 – A year ago, head coach Wilfried Nancy had yet to coach a match for the Columbus Crew, Cucho Hernández hadn’t played a full season and the roster including a number of former Crew 2 players entering their rookie season. So, how it did go? The Club won the third MLS Cup in team history. Entering the 2024 season, there’s far less changes than in 2023, but expectations are much higher. The team that captivated MLS fans as the most attractive and fun team to watch went on to beat the Supporters’ Shield winners at their own stadium, then the Western Conference champs in the span of a week. There’s no mystery anymore. Now, as Nancy always reiterates, it’s about growth, learning and consistency. No doubt the fun will resume, too.

11 – All 11 starters from December’s MLS Cup Final against LAFC are back in Columbus in 2024. Yes, the season opener is a fresh start, but there’s a strong chance that the Crew can carry last season’s momentum into the early goings of the schedule, especially with players familiar with Nancy’s playing style and demands. In many ways, 2023 was a work in progress for the Crew. That’ll remain, but players are more familiar now. Diego Rossi and Rudy Camacho are here from the opening kickoff – not integrating into the season during the summer. (We saw how that went for Cucho). Guys who were promoted from Crew 2 and contracted First Team players who played a key role for the second team in its inaugural season – Sean Zawadzki, Mohamed Farsi, Jacen Russell-Rowe and Patrick Schulte – each have at least a full MLS season under their belts, in addition to national team caps. Lest we forget captain Darlington Nagbe and Aidan Morris have been a part of two MLS Cup-winning seasons. 

6 – Atlanta United FC is no pushover. The Five Stripes finished sixth in the Eastern Conference last season and, at least on paper, seem certain to finish higher in 2024. Greek forward Giorgos Giakoumakis was named to the MLS Best XI and was the 2023 MLS Newcomer of the Year after producing 17 goals and three assists in 27 games. His counterpart, Thiago Almada, was also named to the MLS Best XI (and was the MLS Young Player of the Year) after leading the league with 19 assists. Perhaps the Eastern Conference heavyweights are the Crew, Inter Miami CF and FC Cincinnati, but don’t discount a dangerous Atlanta side with a strong attack and aggressive players on the wings. That said, it should be noted that United had a major departure in center back Miles Robinson leaving the club in free agency. 

67 – Sixty-seven is a standard number in soccer, right? That’s how many goals the Crew scored in 2023 – the league’s most. Atlanta finished second with…66. Atlanta’s attacking prowess is documented above, but Columbus’ frontline packs more punch collectively. Cucho is primed for an MLS MVP-caliber season and might even surpass his 2023 output of 16 goals and 11 assists. Rossi only made 10 league appearances in 2023, but the No. 10 registered three goals and three assists. Christian Ramirez also chipped in eight goals and four assists. Defenders can certainly pride themselves in clean sheets, but let’s be honest: no one’s expecting a scoreless draw Saturday afternoon.

When They Last Met

The Crew ended Atlanta’s 2023 MLS Cup Playoffs run last November when the clubs met in a decisive game three of the first round of the postseason. Columbus took game one, while Atlanta won the second. On Nov. 12, Columbus beat, Atlanta, 4-2, in an electric performance that sent the Crew into the conference semifinals to face Orlando City SC. Darlington Nagbe opened the scoring after nine minutes and Malte Amundsen double the lead in the 17th minute via a long-range screamer. The third came from Alexandu Mǎțan, while Diego Rossi added the fourth. Giakoumakis and Xande Silva tried to trim the deficit, but that evening was all Black & Gold. It was also the last time Columbus played at home until the MLS Cup Final. 

Match Overview

Who: Columbus Crew host Atlanta United FC

When: Saturday, Feb. 24 at 2 p.m.

Where: Field

How to Listen: La Grande 102.5 FM | Alt 105.7 FM | iHeart Radio app

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