Team Profile: Columbus Crew
Updated: Feb 23
Year founded: 1994.
First season in MLS: 1996
Stadium: Lower.com Field, Columbus, OH.
Honors: MLS Cup (2008, 2020), Supporters' Shield (2004, 2008, 2009), U.S. Open Cup (2002), Campeones Cup (2021).
2023 highlights: Columbus will begin the 2023 season under new head coach Wilfried Nancy, who joined from CF Montréal in early December. Nancy will need to have his team ready to hit the ground running, as they travel to reigning Eastern Conference champions Philadelphia Union on opening day (February 25th). March brings a home opener against D.C. United, in Wayne Rooney's first full season in charge, before they head out on their travels for two, visiting Toronto FC and New York Red Bulls. Columbus end the season with six of the last nine away from home. This includes a trip to CF Montréal on September 2nd - the club head coach Nancy was in charge of until joining Columbus - and Orlando City on September 16th, and a chance to erase the agony of last season's final day defeat which halted their postseason hopes. The final game of the season has an added twist. It is the return game against CF Montréal.
Head Coach: Wilfried Nancy.
Players to watch: Christian Ramirez, Lucas Zelarayan, Juan Hernandez.
Maximilian Arfsten (MLS SuperDraft signing)
Keegan Hughes (homegrown) Jimmy Medranda (free agent) Christian Ramírez (transfer from Aberdeen)
Jalil Anibaba (option declined/retired) Artur (trade to Houston) Derrick Etienne Jr (out of contract) Marlon Hairston (out of contract) Erik Hurtado (option declined) James Igbekeme (option declined) Perry Kitchen (retired)
Jonathan Mensah (traded to San Jose Earthquakes) Pedro Santos (option declined)
2022 summary: a loss in Orlando on Decision Day Sunday - and results elsewhere - denied them a place in the playoffs. They ultimately finished eighth, missing out by two points (they were three points behind Cincinnati, who finished fifth). Despite winning MLS Cup in the Covid-affected 2020 season, the Crew has failed to reach the playoffs in three of the past four seasons. Without doubt Lucas Zelarayan was the man of the moment, scoring 10 goals and contributing 12 assists. Derrick Etienne Jr. played his part, with nine goals and six assists, and they had a mainstay in between the pipes in Eloy Room, who played every minute and managed a career-high nine shutouts. There was a lack of consistency for Columbus and their results reflected that. At no point during the season did they win two games in a row. Caleb Porter was fired as head coach the day after the regular season finished. Though they missed the playoffs, Columbus achieved a franchise-high average attendance in 2022 of 19,237 at Lower.com Field.
Facts and Stats: Columbus scored the same number of goals (46) as they did in 2021, equaling their highest tally since 2017 but they gave up only 41 goals, the fewest conceded in a full season since 2010 (34), the last season in which four less games were played. Columbus could possibly point to their record number of drawn games in 2022 as a factor for their failings. They tied 16 of their 34 matches. The previous club record for draws in a season came in 2004 (13), when they claimed the first of three Supporters' Shields. They were a difficult team to beat, as indicated by just eight losses, the fewest-ever in a 34-game season, and the lowest in a full season since 2009 (7). Ultimately, they tied too many, and won too few, and both the club and the coach paid the price.
Milestones in 2023: Columbus Crew requires two more goals at home to reach 50 at Lower.com Field. An MLS original, the Crew are five wins short of 350 all-time. Darlington Nagbe started all 34 games last season (something he also achieved in 2013 when with the Timbers). He is 11 from 350 starts in MLS. Goalkeeper Eloy Room is seven games away from 100 starts and 100 appearances. He and Nagbe both started all 34 games in 2022. Offseason acquisition, Christian Ramirez, returns to MLS after time in Scotland with Aberdeen. His last appearance was for Houston Dynamo against Vancouver Whitecaps on May 22nd, 2021, when he came on for Maxi Urruti in stoppage time. His last MLS goal came in a 3-1 loss at the Colorado Rapids a week earlier.