Earlier this month, head coach Caleb Porter spoke to the media and said he liked how the Crew’s 2022 schedule forced the team to face tough competition straight away. In a way, the matches were a litmus test to see how the Black & Gold stacked up against some of the top teams in the Eastern Conference.
What followed was three-straight losses, but the Crew bombarded the opponent’s goal on all three occasions. In two games, two defensive mistakes led to dropped points. As for the last loss – 2-0 against Orlando City SC – Porter said he thought Orlando was the top team in the conference.
With this as background context, the biggest question the Crew has faced this season is how will the team respond to early adversity?
Days after a cupset against USL Championship side Detroit City FC in the 2022 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, the Black & Gold return to league play and enter a portion of the schedule where they could be the favorites in each match.
Columbus’ next four opponents all sit below the club in the league standings and are as followed:
- April 23 at Sporting Kansas City (12th in Western Conference)
- April 30 vs. D.C. United (14th in Eastern Conference)
- May 7 at the New England Revolution (11th in Eastern Conference)
- May 14 at New York City FC (10th in Eastern Conference)
Let’s start with SKC. The Western Conference foe enters Saturday night’s tout with six points from eight matches, and has scored six goals. Their 14 goals conceded is tied for second-worst in the Western Conference with Vancouver Whitecaps FC, who the Crew beat in the season opener. While most of Sporting’s woes have come on the road, the Crew have an opportunity to earn a positive result early in the season against a team that’s traditionally performed better in its rocky 2022 start.
Next is Columbus hosting D.C. United on April 30 at Lower.com Field. The club’s next home game arrives against the team bottoming the Eastern Conference that fired head coach Hernan Losada earlier this week. This matchup sets nicely for the Crew to break its two-game scoring drought at home.
Following that are matches against New England and New York City. One is the reigning Supporters’ Shield winner; the other won MLS Cup last season. In both matches, the Crew knows it’s facing an underperforming team, but it’s an opportunity to capitalize on their poor runs of form, respectively.
Nobody has ever said winning is easy in MLS. But the Crew is hoping games will get easier as the club inches closer to the summer. The Black & Gold are essentially 20% of the way through their season. How the next handful of matches go can play a vital role in where this club sits entering the final stretch of the regular season.
In 2021, postseason remarks were always about the team wanting more points earlier in the season. In 2022, this is the club’s opportunity.
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