Patrick Mullins - 2.14.19 - Preseason Training

Another test for Crew SC awaits in Carolina Challenge Cup opener

It’s officially two weeks away from Opening Day and Columbus Crew SC are set to take on their second MLS opponent of the preseason in the Chicago Fire on Feb. 16 at 5 p.m. ET in Charleston, S.C.

For Head Coach Caleb Porter, the team’s last preseason match against a fellow MLS team, LAFC, which resulted in a 4-2 win, was a litmus test for the group’s progression.

“I think you have to, throughout a season and throughout the cycles, you have to know when to kind of whip the horse a little bit. We knew we were working on some things in the first two weeks, but I had set it up that that would be a big challenge and a big task and it was going to go one of two ways,” Porter said on the team’s first phase of preseason culminating with a win over LAFC.

“Either we are going to realize that we are a long way off and we’re not where we need to be or we were going to realize that we were on track and obviously in the latter half, when we realized we were on track, the group was up for it and we showed on the road that we could execute the style that we’re talking about executing.”

With the group’s focus still on their own preparation, the Crew, who enter Saturday’s opener in the Carolina Challenge Cup match as the two-time defending champion, expect a competitive match against Chicago.

“I think it’ll be a good game,” said midfielder Pedro Santos.We both have the quality and we are prepared for the game, and we want to play our game and they, for sure, want to play their game. And I think for the people who watch the game, it’ll be a nice game to watch.”

Just over three weeks into preseason under the new technical staff, Santos looks forward to progressing into the next phase of preseason.

“[Under] Caleb, we play good football and press high and we are happy with the ideas. And we work hard all training to be prepared and I think [we have done] a good job…and we move forward to keep the performance.”

The Crew went 1-1-1 against the Fire during the MLS regular season in 2018, including a 3-0 win at MAPFRE Stadium on May 12 led by a brace from Gyasi Zardes.

Saturday’s match will be the first preseason contest featuring Zardes, Wil Trapp, and Zack Steffen, who were all with the U.S. Men’s National Team during the Club’s first three matches in California.

Again, the focus is still on themselves, but it’s still a fun, competitive opportunity, according to Steffen.

“[Chicago is] a good team, they have some special players,” Steffen said. “It’s obviously preseason so we’re not going to focus on them too much, it’s more on us, but it’s going to be a good game and I’m looking forward to getting out there with the guys.”

Each match will be live-streamed online through CharlestonBattery.com, while supporters planning to be in attendance for the entire week can purchase a 2019 CCC Series Ticket Package, or can opt for single-day ticket options. For each day, gates open at 3:30 p.m. ET.

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