Eight days from now, Columbus Crew SC kicks off its 24th season in Major League Soccer. For most, that day could not come any sooner, but still, with one preseason match to play, Crew SC players are balancing the eagerness for the regular season matches with learning the system and the preparation needed for the matches that count.
Still, as part of the process, players have been responding well to head coach Caleb Porter’s implementations and are excited to return to MAPFRE Stadium in just over one week.
“We feel good, you know it’s always amazing when the start of the season is approaching because we know the feeling, the first game of the season is always important,” said defender Jonathan Mensah following training on Friday morning. “The group has been very, very responsive in the trainings…and it’s been great so far.”
Crew SC midfielder Artur spoke on the team’s standing in preseason as the Crew get set to take on MLS expansion side FC Cincinnati on Saturday, Feb. 23.
“I think we are doing great here,” the Brazilian midfielder said. “We keep learning what Caleb wants, and the little bit of the differences each coach has, and we are doing good. We are adding some good things and it will be great for our style of play and I think we are ready for March 2nd…and the rest of the season."
Albeit a rivalry match on Feb. 23, the eye of Crew SC remains fixed on March 2 in a rematch of last year’s Eastern Conference Semifinals against the New York Red Bulls.
“We have to shift the gears now because our preseason mode is going to be over soon and we have to focus on the League now, which is our first game against Red Bull, so that’s what we’re doing now,” Mensah said.
When asked if there is a different energy heading into the season, Mensah agreed, alluding to how the team now has one sole focus – giving the Black & Gold faithful what they want.
“There is because you know, it’s a broad thing and we are starting to feel that everything is relaxed; not in the sense that ‘oh, we are relaxed’ – we are going into the games like we are tough – but your mind is clear now. You know where the team is, where the team is gonna be for years now. You don’t have any speculations of where the team will be playing, so now we just have to go out there and give the fans what they want.”
Crew SC kicks off its final preseason match at 5 p.m. ET on Feb. 23 from MUSC Health Stadium before returning to Central Ohio for the home opener on March 2 at 4:30 p.m. ET.