Charlotte FC vs. Columbus Crew: MLS Matchday 5 Preview

The defending champs are back in action this weekend and will journey to Bank of America Stadium to face off against Charlotte FC on Saturday evening.

Mar 16, 2024; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Columbus Crew forward Cucho Hernandez (9) reacts after a goal is
Mar 16, 2024; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Columbus Crew forward Cucho Hernandez (9) reacts after a goal is / Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

The MLS action resumes this weekend as the impressive Columbus Crew face off against Charlotte FC in a crucial match at Bank of America Stadium on Saturday.

Charlotte currently sits in 11th place in the MLS Eastern Conference standings and has struggled to find their form this season. The home team suffered a 2-1 defeat against Nashville SC last week and will be eager to bounce back in this upcoming match.

On the other hand, Columbus is in second place in the league table and has been performing well this season. They comfortably defeated the New York Red Bulls 3-0 in their last game and will aim for a similar result in this weekend's clash.

As the reigning MLS Cup champions, Columbus will be aiming for a fourth title this season. Inter Miami presents a formidable challenge not just within the conference but across the league. Therefore, it is crucial for the champions not to drop points, particularly against teams like Charlotte who are struggling.

A look at the hosts

The Crowns has a record of one win, one draw, and two losses (1-1-2) in their first four matches, placing them in 11th position in the Eastern Conference standings. They have suffered consecutive defeats, both away from home, and hold a 0-1-2 record on the road, although they did secure a victory in their sole home game against NYCFC on opening matchday. It's evident that their form is not strong at the moment.

Offensively, Charlotte has struggled this season, only scoring three goals with three different players finding the back of the net. Defensively, Charlotte has been average, conceding just four goals so far, but half of those came in their recent match against Nashville. They have managed only one clean sheet. Goalkeeper Kristijan Kahlina will have a tough task trying to keep a clean sheet against the Crew on Saturday evening and will require support from the defense.

A crew on form

After playing four matches, the Black & Gold remains unbeaten with a record of three wins and one draw (3-1-0), placing them joint top of the Eastern Conference standings alongside Inter Miami in terms of points. Their sole non-victory occurred in an away game against Minnesota United FC, where the Crew conceded a late equalizer to end in a 1-1 draw. Since then, they have secured two wins, including a convincing 3-0 triumph over the Red Bulls last Saturday, and outscoring their opponents 7-2 overall.

Cucho Hernández has been instrumental for the Columbus Crew, leading the team in goals scored with four across all competitions and contributing to an assist, showcasing MVP-worthy performances. Hernández also tops the team in shots on goal with ten and the most shots per 90 in the league with 5.8. Additionally, the Crew boasts impressive passing statistics, leading the MLS with an 86.3% passing accuracy and ranking sixth globally for ball retention under intense pressure. Yes - you read that right.

As they prepare to face Charlotte FC, the Columbus Crew's defense stands out as the best in the MLS, conceding only two goals and achieving two clean sheets so far this season. Goalkeeper Patrick Schulte ranks second in the league with two clean sheets to his name and is rumored to be of an interest to Arsenal FC in the English Premier League.

Injury News

Wilfried Nancy’s team will be without Alex Matan once again and will be hoping to hear some positive news soon enough.

Charlotte FC will encounter difficulties in their upcoming match as they will be without several key players due to injuries. Ben Bender, Tyger Smalls, Brandon Cambridge, and Brandt Bronico are all sidelined. Enzo Copetti is also a doubt for the match.

What to expect

While considering all these details, it's important not to overlook Charlotte's potential to spring an upset at any moment, especially with their strong support from the crowd acting as the 12th man, providing them with an added advantage. Columbus has shown vulnerability on the road, as seen in their matches against Minnesota and Houston (although they managed a win with a late winner), indicating that this season has had its challenges. This upcoming game won't be as straightforward as their home matches at Field, but I still anticipate the Crew securing a narrow victory. Ideally, I would love to be proven wrong, and witness a dominant win in favor of Columbus, but realistically, I foresee a closely contested match.

What are your score predictions?