Columbus Crew Opening Week Feature: Team plays tonight at Philadelphia Union; Milos Degenek and Steven Moreira discuss new coaching staff and team outlook

Milos Degenek
Milos Degenek Steven Moriera Crew 2023 Week 1 at Philadelphia 2 21 23.mp3
Steven Moreira

By The Numbers pres. by Ohio Business Machines | Crew begins 2023 MLS season at Philadelphia Union

The wait is over. The Black & Gold are back in action on Saturday night when they face the Philadelphia Union at Subaru Park in the 2023 MLS season opener.

For Columbus, the club is hoping to usher in a new era for the Crew, while the Union hopes to regain the momentum it carried throughout 2022. This is a big-time matchup between two strong Eastern Conference sides, and it’s a highly anticipated curtain raiser for the new campaign.

Three Things to Know

1(a) – Not only is this the first game of the year, but it’s head coach Wilfried Nancy’s first leading the Crew since joining the Club in December. Having spent the last few weeks tinkering tactics and getting to know his players, Nancy has his first chance to lead a side packed with veterans and emerging talents, alike. Up top, we’ll see Cucho Hernández and Lucas Zelarayán together to start the season for the first time, while midfielders Darlington Nagbe and Aidan Morris are expected to control the midfield. The Crew underwent plenty of chances during the offseason, including the departures of several influential starters in previous seasons. The question now is who will fill in those roles, and how can we expect the Crew to play under Nancy.

1(b) – Consider this a baptism by fire. This is the second time in three years that these clubs have met in to start a season, but the circumstances are slightly different. The first occasion was 2021, when the Columbus hosted Philly at Historic Crew Stadium on the heels of an MLS Cup championship. Entering 2023, the Union plays host and enters the match as the reigning Eastern Conference champ and was on the wrong side of a penalty shootout to win the MLS Cup Final. Philadelphia returns all 11 of its starters and added depth in the process. Jim Curtain was named the 2022 MLS Sigi Schmid Coach of the Year award – just one-tenth of a percentage point ahead of Nancy. Make no mistake: The Union isn’t untouchable, but it’s a team that returns a full-strength squad from a successful 2022. The Crew enters Saturday hoping to build a new foundation.

6 – After starting the last four seasons at home, Black & Gold supporters will have to postpone Crewsmas a week to next Saturday for the home opener at Field against D.C. United. But that doesn’t mean the good times have to wait. Dating back to 2017, Columbus is unbeaten in six-straight season openers. During that time, it’s rattled off three wins and three draw a piece. The 2022 campaign began with a 4-0 blowout win against Vancouver Whitecaps FC.

When They Last Met

The clubs played to a scoreless draw in their last meeting: July 3 at Field. In the Crew’s last visit to Subaru Park, it lost, 1-0, on April 9, 2022. Columbus is hoping it can snap its five-game winless streak against Philadelphia.

Match Overview

Who: Columbus Crew at Philadelphia Union

When: Saturday, Feb. 25 at 7:30 p.m.

Where: Subaru Park

How to Watch: MLS Season Pass on the Apple TV app

How to Listen: 97.1 The Fan, La Mega 103.1 FM

Final Standings in 2022: Columbus Crew – Eighth in Eastern Conference; Philadelphia Union – First in Eastern Conference.