First Kick this Saturday

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The two-time defending Supporters' Shield-winning Columbus Crew will open the 2010 MLS season - its 15th overall - this Saturday, March 27, when it hosts arch-rival Toronto FC at Crew Stadium. First Kick 2010 will also be the first leg of the home-and-home Trillium Cup competition between the two clubs.

The Trillium Cup, which refers to the official flower of the province of Ontario and official wildflower of the State of Ohio, is awarded annually to the winner of the season series between the geographic rivals. The Crew - which won the competition in its first two seasons in 2008 and 2009 - is unbeaten against Toronto FC since the club's inception in 2007, compiling a record of 4-0-5 in nine games against the Reds.

Saturday's match, which kicks off at 4 p.m. ET, will be televised live regionally on ONN-TV, with Dwight Burgess and Bill McDermott calling all the action. The game can also be heard in English on News/Talk 610 WTVN with Neil Sika behind the microphone and on-line at TheCrew.com and MLSsoccer.com, as well as in Spanish on La Mega 103.1-FM, featuring Carlos Cordova and Benny Pietrangelo on the call.

Saturday's First Kick 2010 festivities will involve several features, including an exhibition match between the U.S. Under-17 National Team and the Crew Soccer Academy 17/18s kicking off at 1 p.m., a SWACO schedule magnet giveaway (while supplies last), the unveiling of a 2009 MLS Supporters' Shield winners banner in the stadium's upper northeast corner and halftime acknowledgment of the Crew's 2009 Trillium Cup triumph.

The Black & Gold enters the match after narrowly and valiantly falling to Toluca FC in the 2009-10 CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals on an aggregate score of 5-4. In the series' first match - at Crew Stadium on March 9 - Toluca FC took the first half leads thanks to goals by Antonio Naelson and Antonio Rios in the 19th and 45th minutes, respectively. The Crew then responded with a gritty second-half performance, as Steven Lenhart tallied strikes in the 66th and 84th minutes to end the closely-contested match in a draw.

The Crew then traveled to Toluca, Mexico on March 17 for the second match of the series, needing a win or a draw of at least a 3-3 to advance to the semifinals. Things looked good early for the Crew after a Guillermo Barros Schelotto penalty kick goal in first half stoppage time, but Toluca responded with a penalty kick goal of its own just moments after the halftime restart and a second tally just 10 minutes later. The Crew gave itself life with a second goal by Schelotto in the 70th minute, but Toluca pulled ahead with a tally just two minutes later, and after Lenhart was issued a red card in the 80th minute, the Crew was unable to find the final goal it needed.

COLUMBUS CREW vs. Toronto FC

Saturday, March 27 - 4 p.m. (ET) at Crew Stadium

National Television: N/A; Regional Television: ONN-TV

Crew Radio: News/Talk 610 WTVN (English); La Mega 103.1-FM (Spanish)

Crew Webcasts: TheCrew.com and MLSNet.com (English)

CREW TO HOST TEAM MEET & GREET WEDNESDAY AT THE BIG BANG BAR IN ARENA DISTRICT

In anticipation of Saturday's First Kick 2010, the Crew will host a team meet and greet this Wednesday, March 24, from 6 - 8 p.m. at The Big Bang Bar, where the two-time defending MLS Supporters' Shield winning Crew will be on hand to interact with fans, sign autographs and take pictures. The Big Bag bar is located at 401 Front Street, Suite 95 in the Arena District. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. The event is free and open to the media and general public until 8 p.m. After 8 p.m., patrons must be 21 or older.

CREW TO HOST FAN FORUM THURSDAY AT CLADDAGH IRISH PUB

The Crew will host its annual Fan Forum at the club's Official Viewing Party Headquarters, Claddagh Irish Pub, located at 585 South Front Street in the Brewery District, this Thursday, March 25, from 6:30 - 8:30 p.m. Parking is available in the lot behind Kroger and the lot located one block west of Front St. on Sycamore St. (both $3), as well as in the garage at the corner of Front St. and Blenkner St. The interactive discussion will feature a brief outline of the club's current priorities and state of affairs by President & General Manager Mark McCullers, as well as a panel including McCullers, head coach Robert Warzycha and select Crew players, which will be available to answer questions.

CSA 17/18 SQUAD TO FACE U.S. UNDER-17 SQUAD SATURDAY AT CREW STADIUM

The Crew Soccer Academy 17/18 squad will face the U.S. Under-17 National Team in a youth friendly prior to the Crew's First Kick match against Trillium Cup-rival Toronto FC at Crew Stadium this Saturday (March 27). The match, which kicks off at 1 p.m., is part of a First Kick doubleheader and fans can gain entry to the youth friendly between CSA and the U.S. Under-17s with a ticket to the Crew's First Kick match against Toronto FC, which kicks off later that day at 4 p.m. The match against CSA is the first in a 10-game tour for the U.S. U-17 National Team from March until May, which features matches against five Academy clubs affiliated with MLS clubs - including the Crew Soccer Academy - and five other Development Academy opponents. The wide-ranging tour kicks off the national squad's early stages of preparation for the 2011 CONCACAF U-17 Championship and the subsequent 2011 FIFA U-17 World Cup. In its most recent action on the field last weekend (March 20-21), the CSA 15/16s and 17/18s hosted Michigan clubs Vardar and Derby County Wolves at the Crew's Training Facility at Obetz. On Saturday (March 20), they faced off against Vardar, with the 15/16s winning 3-0, thanks to goals by Chris Davis, Brett Elder and Alex Ranalli and the 17/18s also earning a 3-0 victory thanks to strikes by Kyle Culbertson, Aaron Horton and Vaughn Spurrier. Both teams took on Derby County Wolves on Sunday (March 21), as the 15/16 earned their second win of the weekend with a 2-1 victory thanks to goals by Davis and Elder, while the 17/18s fell to Wolves, 4-0.

'UNITED AGAINST MALARIA' MOBILE TOUR TO VISIT CREW STADIUM THIS SATURDAY

In partnership with MLS W.O.R.K.S. and Nothing But Nets, the "United Against Malaria" mobile tour will visit Crew Stadium this Saturday, March 27 during the Crew's match against Toronto FC to spread the word about the program's global goal of ending malaria by 2015. Nothing But Nets will be on hand to collect signatures and educate fans about the program and the "United Against Malaria" tour will feature an informational tent where fans receive giveaways, take green screen photos and learn more about the Nothing But Nets campaign.

JOIN THE CREW FOR AUTOGRAPH ALLEY AFTER THIS SATURDAY'S GAME

Join Crew players Emmanuel Ekpo, Frankie Hejduk, Adam Moffat, Danny O'Rourke and Kenny Schoeni after the Crew's match against Toronto FC this Saturday for Autography Alley in the Stadium Club tent. Saturday's match will be the first of 10 Autograph Alley matches this season, as all five players will be on hand to sign autographs and interact with fans as the Crew continues its long-standing Autograph Alley postgame tradition.

REGULAR-SEASON SINGLE-GAME TICKETS ON SALE

Single-game tickets for the Crew's 2010 regular-season home schedule are currently available at the Crew Stadium Box Office, all central Ohio Ticketmaster retail locations, via Ticketmaster phone at 800-745-3000 and on-line at TheCrew.com and Ticketmaster.com. Fans can also still become Crew Soccer Nation members by purchasing full-season ticket packages or partial plans, starting as low as $95 for 5-Packs. Group tickets are also available for all 15 home games. All ticket packages or plans are available through TheCrew.com and 614-447-CREW. The Crew's 2010 home schedule features a total of 13 Saturday games - including First Kick 2010, March 27, vs. Toronto FC - one Sunday match and one Wednesday match.

CREWXTRA AIRS WEDNESDAY NIGHTS AT 8 AND 11 P.M. ON ONN-TV

CrewXtra, the Crew's weekly show, airs every Wednesday at 8 p.m. (and again at 11 p.m.) on ONN-TV. This week, host Beau Bishop will be joined by goalkeeper William Hesmer, Crew TV color analyst Dante Washington and Columbus Dispatch beat writer Shawn Mitchell. CrewXtra provides viewers with in-depth coverage and access to the team every week, including game recaps, breakdowns and previews of the upcoming matches, while interspersing other news, interviews, discussion and features.