It's a battle between the 2020 MLS Cup champions and the 2020 Supporters' Shield winners as Columbus Crew SC hosts the Philadelphia Union on Sunday, April 18 at Historic Crew Stadium as part of the 2021 MLS Home Opener for the Black & Gold.
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Both teams will come in with two competitive matches under their belts this year following respective 5-0 on aggregate wins in the Round of 16 of the 2021 Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League.
In MLS play, Columbus has won three straight matches against the Union, including beating the Supporters Shield winners twice last season, both at home. The Union have won only two of their 15 all-time visits to Columbus (D2 L11), failing to win any of their last six matches at Historic Crew Stadium (D1 L5).
The Crew have yet to give up a goal through two Concacaf Champions League matches, continuing the trend from last year's MLS Cup Playoffs. The Crew kept clean sheets in each of their final three playoff matches after conceding at least once in their previous 12 games. Prior to that run, however, the Crew had let in just four goals in 12 matches, the second-best 12-match defensive start to a season in MLS history (Galaxy – 3 goals allowed in 2010).
As for Philly, the Union won its first piece of silverware last season, the Supports Shield, despite losing their season-opening game in Dallas. On that note, the Union have struggled to start seasons, winning just two of their 11 season-opening matches (D3 L6).
Having earned a full game's rest on Thursday vs. Real Esteli in CCL play, Crew forward Gyasi Zardes returns to Historic Crew Stadium for the first time in 2021 after scoring seven goals at home last season, tied for the most in MLS (with Seattle’s Raul Ruidiaz and Jordan Morris).
Sunday's match is sure to be an entertaining match-up for many reasons, one being the fact that the Union scored 10 goals from outside the box in the 2020 MLS season, four more than any other team. Anthony Fontana and Kacper Przybylko each scored two goals from outside the box.
The league leader in that category, though? Well, it was none other than the Crew’s Lucas Zelarayan with three, who also netted the game-winner in the Crew's 2020 Home Opener last year vs. the then-reigning Eastern Conference regular-season champions in New York City FC.