By The Numbers

By The Numbers | Crew hosts MNUFC in Leagues Cup Round of 32

Monday night was great and all, but it’s time for things to start getting serious. Winners of their group, the Black & Gold return to Field on Friday when they host Minnesota United FC in a Leagues Cup Round of 32 matchup. 

Three Things To Know

1 – Well, we’re not used to survive-and-advance soccer during the summer (ignore the MLS is Back Tournament), but we fully embrace the Crew competing for a midseason trophy to become the top North American side. Head coach Wilfried Nancy’s side has certainly looked the part so far after winning Group Central 1, which included St. Louis CITY SC and Club América. The latter needs no introduction, but don’t forget that St. Louis leads the MLS Western Conference and is second in the league in goals scored … to Columbus. But things change now that pressure rises and, on home soil, the Black & Gold have a chance to advance to the Round of 16 — and potentially yet another Leagues Cup home match. 

2 – Nancy’s message was very clear about Lucas Zelarayán’s departure, so it’s worth reiterating here: “He wrote a story in the club; he created memories for the club,” Nancy said about the playmaker. “About what he's done for the club, this is the most important. Now, the idea is to focus on – like I told you in the beginning – the team. The team is the most important … We have to move forward with that. I know that Columbus and all the fans, they will never forget Lucas, but now we have to look forward. The club has a vision, and that's why I'm here, also.” On the same day LZ’s departure was announced, the team came out and delivered a comprehensive win over storied Club América. You can’t replace one of the better players in club history instantly, but you can establish an environment that creates one of the most exciting, enjoyable teams in Columbus history. Nancy’s done that. Now, we eagerly await what comes next.  

3 – The Loons finished second in their Leagues Cup group and advanced thanks to a big 4-0 win against Liga MX side Puebla. But they also just lost to Chicago Fire FC and sit 10th in the Western Conference standings during the MLS campaign. Don’t downplay Bongokuhle Hlongwane’s impressive group stage display, however, as the South African scored four goals in two games. The Bafana Bafana winger has scored 12 goals and has three assists across 26 MLS, Leagues Cup and Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup matches in 2023 — an impressive return. Plus, there’s Teemu Pukki, who’s fresh from playing exclusively in Europe. The Finnish forward scored in his MLS debut and was prolific at Championship side Norwich City FC. While he scored plenty of goals for a yellow club, the Crew will be hoping he’s not as successful scoring against sides in yellow. Minnesota loves playing underdog. Let’s hope there’s not much of a bite. 

When They Last Met

Those were the pandemic days, as 1,455 packed into Historic Crew Stadium to watch the Black & Gold beat Minnesota, 2-1, on Sept. 24, 2020. Zelarayán and Pedro Santos were the two goal scorers before the club went on to win the 2020 MLS Cup later that year. Note: These clubs also met in the MLS is Back Tournament, where the Loons advanced on penalties. 

Match Overview

Who: Columbus Crew hosts Minnesota United FC
When: Friday, Aug. 4 at 8:00 p.m.
Where: Field
Tickets: Friday Night Fútbol Kicks Off Early This Year 
How to Watch: MLS Season Pass on the Apple TV app
How to Listen: 97.1 HD3/The Fan Stream, La Mega 103.1 FM
Current Standings: Columbus Crew – First in Group C1; Minnesota United – Second in Group C2

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