Nashville SC-Crew Preview
The Columbus Crew will hope to build on their first win at Lower.com Field against Nashville SC on Wednesday, although Caleb Porter appreciates injuries mean performances cannot be "perfect."
The Crew are missing a host of leading players, with international call-ups adding to fitness issues to limit Porter's options.
But Columbus were still able to beat New York City FC 2-1 last time out, securing their breakthrough victory at their new stadium.
"A really gutsy win," Porter said of that game. "It's great to get those first three points in the new stadium. Hopefully it's the first of many; we have 11 more.
"We want to get that feeling back in this stadium that we had in Historic Crew Stadium where we have a fortress where no one wants to come in and no one can get points off us - so it's great to start to build that feeling."
Lucas Zelarayan's free-kick deceived the NYCFC goalkeeper to win the game, a narrow victory but a precious one for Porter.
"We like where we're at, but we know we can still improve," he said. "But again, right now with the guys that are out, it's about getting points and hanging in. We can't expect the performances to be perfect."
Opponents Nashville are not in a dissimilar position, though, with Gary Smith needing his fringe men to step up.
"I think there's a couple of things from our side of the fence that do play into maybe any narrative anyone wants to speak about," Smith said.
"The first part of that is how we are evolving and what we look like in the creative sense. But the second part of it on Wednesday is squad depth and strength of group."
Columbus Crew - Eloy Room
Nashville have scored 12 goals across their past five games, with Smith saying: "I'd like to think people can see the improvement." That should mean a busy outing for Room, declared the best goalkeeper in MLS by Porter after the NYCFC game.
Nashville SC - Hany Mukhtar
There can only be one key man for Nashville. Mukhtar's sensational early hat-trick last time out against the Chicago Fire was reward for his work being "a real catalyst not just for his own gain, but for us as well", Smith said.
- This will be the third meeting between Columbus and Nashville, with the Crew winning each of the first two 2-0 at home, including in extra time in last season's playoffs. Pedro Santos opened the scoring in both matches with each goal assisted by Gyasi Zardes, while Zardes added the second goal in both games as well.
- The Crew have won 18 of their past 21 home matches (D2 L1) dating back to the last match of the 2019 season (including playoffs). The Crew's 56 points from those 21 home matches equals the most by any team in a 21-game home span in the post-shootout era (since 2000).
- Nashville scored a club-record five goals in their 5-1 win over Chicago on Saturday. The four-goal margin of victory was also the largest in club history.
- Zelarayan's winning goal against New York City FC on Saturday was his fourth direct free-kick goal of the season (his third against NYCFC). Only Sebastian Giovinco (seven in 2017, five in 2015) has scored more goals from direct free-kicks in a single season since 2010.
- Mukhtar scored a hat-trick in a six-minute span in the first half of Nashville's win over Chicago on Saturday. Only Harut Karpetyan (five minutes for LA Galaxy on June 4, 1998) has done so in a shorter time span in MLS history.
Updated July 20, 2021