With the Major League Soccer break concluded after the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup group stage, Columbus Crew SC will restart it's League campaign with a home-and-home series against the Philadelphia Union. The first leg will take place at MAPFRE Stadium on Saturday, July 22 at 7:30 p.m. ET. The Black & Gold will then travel to Philadelphia for a match on Wednesday, July 26 at 7:30 p.m. ET.
Before we re-kick off the MLS regular season, here are the things to watch as the Black & Gold host the Union:
Long time no see
Columbus Crew SC is back at home again on Saturday July 22 as they host the Philadelphia Union for their first of two meetings this season. The match is set to kickoff at 7:30 p.m. ET at MAPFRE Stadium.
Both teams will enter the match off a quick turnaround from midweek matches. Columbus hosted German Bundesliga-side Eintracht Frankfurt on Monday, July 17, at MAFPRE Stadium, winning 1-0 while playing 19 different players in the international friendly. The visitors are set to take on the Montreal Impact on Wednesday in Montreal before traveling to Columbus.
Last season the two Eastern Conference teams clashed three times, all in favor of the Union.
The City of Brotherly Love's player to watch
C.J. Sapong has proven to be a dangerous striker for the Union. He has notched nine goals and three assists so far this season, compared to his seven goals last season. The 2011 MLS Rookie of the Year has also earned two caps for the U.S. Men’s National Team.
With the Gold Cup knock out rounds in full swing, the Union are missing (at time of publication) starting forward Chris Pontius (USA) and goalkeeper Andre Blake (Jamaica). The U.S. Men's National Team and Pontius are slated to face El Salvador in Philadelphia in the quarterfinals on Wednesday night while Blake's Jamaica faces Canada on Thursday in the quarterfinals in Glendale, Ariz.
It's unclear if either would be available for selection for Saturday's match — depending on their respective national team results in the quarterfinals.
Pontius is all too familiar with the Black & Gold. The 30-year-old midfielder found the back of the net multiple times in the last season's clashes. Despite tallying 12 goals for the Union last season, Pontius has yet to find the back of the net for his club this season.
Blake has started and played every second of all but one of Philadelphia's MLS regular season matches this year. He's recorded seven clean sheets with 20 goals allowed with a 6-7-4 record.
Also on the uncertain list is Alejandro Bedoya, who captained and featured for the USMNT in the group stage before leaving the team for the birth of his second child. He is no longer with the National Team in the Gold Cup, but it's unclear if he will be available on Saturday.
“Yo Homes, Smell Ya Later”
Saturday’s meeting will be the first of two meetings between the Eastern Conference clubs before Crew SC heads to Chester, Penn., the following week. The Black & Gold hold an overall 10-7-1 record against the Union and are currently sitting in sixth place in the Eastern Conference with the Union trailing in eighth.