It's a rematch of the MLS is Back Tournament quarterfinal against Minnesota United SC (5-4-3, 18 pts.) and Head Coach Caleb Porter sees it as another chance to make a statement as Columbus Crew SC (8-1-3, 27 pts.) heads into the regular-season home stretch.
"I think this is one that we say, 'hey, this is going to be a playoff-type feel,' and it's important to have some of these games," Porter said on Monday after training.
"We need to be sharpening our sword for the postseason and we need to be playing really good teams to get ourselves ready while we hopefully continue to get points. So I think this is going to be probably one of the best tests we've had since Philadelphia."
In addition to a plus-10 goal differential at home fueled by exactly ZERO goals allowed, the Black & Gold have not lost at MAPFRE Stadium since July 6, 2019.
Meanwhile, Minnesota comes to town on the heels of a 2-2 draw vs. Houston, and they will bring newly acquired Kei Kamara following a recent trade with the Colorado Rapids.
Minnesota Head Coach Adrian Heath said he expects Kamara to have a big presence on and off the field.
“I’m hoping that a little bit of mentorship and a little bit of understudy from Mason [Toye] watching a guy that has scored goals consistently within the league,” Heath said after the game Saturday of Kamara.
“And, not only that, his strength and personality is something that people have spoken to us about over the last week or so since this has been going on. So, delighted that we’ve done the deal. We felt it was something that we couldn’t turn down in the current circumstances. And, we think he’ll be a big, big asset for us.”
Speaking of big assets, Gyasi Zardes's nine goals rank second in the MLS Golden Boot race, as he stands just four goals away from tying his 2019 total of 13 goals in 28 appearances. At his current rate of one goal per 120 minutes, it'll take Zardes just over five more games to tie his 2019 mark.
Despite logging a career-best 19 regular-season goals with Columbus in 2018, there's no doubt Zardes is showing something even Crew fans haven't witnessed from the 29-year-old.
After witnessing Zardes score his fourth goal in the last three matches, Porter said he's seeing a more complete version of the veteran striker.
"I tell him every day because in training he’s playing as well as I’ve ever seen him play and he has a lot of confidence. I think he is doing different things than he has ever done. He’s showing to be more complete in his hold-up play and in his movement in different ways."
Porter went on the emphasize the relationship between the Club's No. 9 & No. 10, and Lucas Zelarayan said his relationship with Zardes has been key for his transition to Columbus.
In six starts, Zelarayan has recorded four goals and three assists, with two of those helpers leading to a Zardes goal.
“When I joined the team, I knew Gyasi was going to be my attacking partner and it was important for us to get along well together," Zelarayan said.
"It’s something we’ve worked on since the beginning. Gyasi has made it easy for me to adapt to his style and he’s adapted to my game. One of the things that makes him a great player, he has great movement. He fights for every ball like it’s the last in the match, he’s always available inside the box. That makes it easy to find him.”
Kickoff against fourth-place Minnesota is set for Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. ET on FOX Sports Ohio, 97.1 FM The Fan (English audio), and ColumbusCrewSC (Spanish audio).