The Columbus Crew learned the team’s Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup opponent Thursday afternoon for the Round of 16. Columbus will travel to Highmark Stadium to face off against the Pittsburgh Riverhounds of the USL Championship on Wednesday, May 24 at 7 p.m.
This will be the third straight USL side the Black & Gold have faced in this year’s Open Cup and the second straight on the road. Columbus got to the last 16 of the tournament after defeating Indy Eleven in the third round 1-0 at Lower.com Field and beating Loudoun United FC 5-1 on Wednesday night.
It was not easy sailing for the Crew in the third round of the Open Cup. While the Black & Gold dominated the match against Indy Eleven, Columbus couldn’t find a goal. It took until the 83rd minute when wing back Mohamed Farsi, who came off the bench in the second half, found the winner, slipping the ball under the Indy goalkeeper to give the home side the win.
The Crew then faced Loudoun United at Segra Field in the Round of 32. Midfielder Isaiah Parente led the Black & Gold to win with two goals. A heavily-rotated squad also saw goals from wing back Yaw Yeboah, midfielder Sean Zawadski and forward Christian Ramirez. Now, the Black & Gold will face another team from the USL Championship.
Pittsburgh is one of two USL Championship teams left in this year’s U.S. Open Cup. The Riverhounds have played three matches in the tournament already this season, defeating Rochester New York FC 1-0 in early April, Maryland Bobcats FC 2-0 in late April and MLS’s New England Revolution 1-0 in the Round of 32 to book the team ticket in the last 16 of the tournament.
The Crew last made the Round of 16 during the 2019 season when the Black & Gold fell to Atlanta United by a 3-2 scoreline. Columbus hasn’t made it past the Round of 16 since the 2010 season when the team reached the Open Cup final but fell 2-1 to the Seattle Sounders on the road.
The Crew has rotated the lineup in the Open Cup, resting important starters for MLS play while also getting valuable playing time for other players and staying competitive. However, the Black & Gold cannot afford any more injuries, especially when playing on turf.
Columbus is now without left wing back Will Sands after he suffered an ACL tear against Charlotte FC — a team that plays on turf — a few weeks ago. Defender Phillip Quinton also suffered a knock in the Open Cup match against Loudoun United — another turf field — when he existed late in the match after going down and struggling to put weight on his ankle.
So what could happen in the game against Pittsburgh, another team that plays on turf?
The Open Cup Round of 16 match comes after a highly anticipated Hell Is Real Derby against FC Cincinnati and a busy stretch for the Crew. Head coach Wilfried Nancy will have to be crafty in order to keep his team fresh and healthy while playing in multiple competitions over the coming weeks.