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Season Preview: Columbus Crew SC embark on monumental campaign

Sep 16, 2017; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Columbus Crew midfielder Wil Trapp (20) dribbles the ball against the Vancouver Whitecaps during the second half at BC Place. Mandatory Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Much of the conversation around Columbus Crew SC in 2018 will be about action away from the field.

Followers of the club have been living with angst since October, when it came to light that ownership is working on a potential relocation to Austin, Texas.

Precourt Sports Ventures, which acquired the club in 2013, continues searching for an urban stadium site in Austin as Columbus’ grassroots #SaveTheCrew movement fights to save Major League Soccer’s original club.

Oh, and there is some soccer to be played in 2018.

Crew SC fields a slightly altered squad in what could be the club’s final season in Columbus, having dealt top producers Ola Kamara and Justin Meram in the offseason.

Much of the rest of the roster returns from last year’s squad, which made a surprise run to the Eastern Conference finals. Can Crew SC treat Columbus to another playoff appearance? Head Coach and Sporting Director Gregg Berhalter, regarded as one of the league’s top tacticians, will be tested in 2018.

Crew SC opens 2018 on road against Toronto FC

When: March 3, 1 p.m.

Where: BMO Field

Broadcast: TV — ABC-6, Spectrum Sports, BCSN2; RADIO — CD102.5 FM (English), ColumbusCrewSC.com (Spanish)

Live stream: MLS Live

The buzz:  Crew SC have no time to ease into a new season, opening on the road against 2017 MLS Cup Champion Toronto FC. Adding more pressure and intrigue, the match kicks off the MLS season. It is the third time Crew SC has opened against Toronto FC, having won in 2008 and 2010.

Other key matches

March 10 vs Montreal Impact– Crew SC mark their debut at MAPFRE Stadium.

May 27 at Sporting Kansas City – The first of two nationally televised matches, to be broadcast on FS1.

June 9 vs New York Red Bulls – Second of a pair of nationally televised matches, broadcast on ESPN.

Check out the full 2018 schedule here.

Quotes & Notes

 

On shifting to the regular season:

“For us it’s about the mentality that every play matters in the course of the game and every play will add up to a positive result.”

-Head Coach Gregg Berhalter

“You’re seeing the mentality shift pretty quickly, which is good. But we’re battle-tested—we played a lot of games in pre-season. I think that bodes well for us moving forward.”

-Captain Wil Trapp

Biggest offseason moves

The club parted with its longest-tenured player, Justin Meram, who donned the Black & Gold for seven seasons. Meram was traded to Orlando City. Crew SC acquired about $1 million in allocation money, as well as an international roster slot for the 2019 season.

Ola Kamara was traded to the LA Galaxy for forward Gyasi Zardes.

Roster breakdown

Forwards – Adam Jahn, 27; Edward Opoku, 21; Gyasi Zardes, 26

Midfielders – Mohammed Abu, 26; Ricardo Clark, 35; Artur, 21; Mike Grella, 31; Niko Hansen, 23; Federico Higuain, 33; Hector Jimenez, 29; Christian Martinez, 21; Pedro Santos, 29; Eduardo Sosa, 21; Wil Trapp, 25

Defenders – Lalas Abubakar, 23; Harrison Afful, 31; Alex Crognale, 23; Connor Maloney, 22; Jonathan Mensah, 27; Gaston Suaro, 28; Milton Valenzuela, 19; Josh Williams, 29

Goalkeepers – Jon Kempin, 24; Logan Ketterer, 24; Zack Steffen, 22

See full roster details here.

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