Sunday kicked off what held the promise of a beautiful day in the capital city of Ohio. The Columbus Crew and new signing Lucas Zelarayan opened their 2020 season at home against New York City FC (hereafter known as NYCFC); the Ohio State Buckeyes men’s basketball team hosted That Team Up North, and the Columbus Blue Jackets hosted the Vancouver Canucks.
Two of my buddies, Justin and Dustin, and I decided to attend all three games. Here’s what happened.
Game One: NYCFC at Columbus Crew
The Crew kicked off their 2020 season by hosting NYCFC. The Crew were bringing in some new signings: Darlington Nagbe, Vito Wormgoor, and new star signing Lucas Zelarayan. The Crew had a disappointing 2019 season as head coach Caleb Porter struggled to fit Gregg Berhalter’s roster to a new system. With a full offseason under their belt, Porter and general manager Tim Bezbatchenko were able to shape the roster to their liking. The result? A strong opening day lineup.
The Crew opened the game immediately on the front foot and were rewarded for their pressure. A long ball from goalkeeper Eloy Room sprung Lucas Zelarayan and an NYCFC defender was forced to bring down the Argentine. A straight red card in the fourth minute meant that NYCFC would play the next 86 minutes with 10 men.
Inconsistent officiating was the theme of the day at Mapfre Stadium. If any of you think NHL officiating is bad, you haven’t seen anything until you’ve watched the MLS. Calls were missed both ways, the rules were inconsistently applied, and blatant fouls were missed. The head official for the match lost control after the early red card and was never able to control the players on the pitch. In one notable incident, an NYCFC player shoved the official and got away without so much as a verbal warning, never mind a card that would have been warranted at any other level of the sport.
In any case, the Crew didn’t capitalize until the 58th minute. Early into the second half, new signing Lucas Zelarayan made his second major impact on the match. After picking up the ball in the penalty area, he was able to turn on his defender and open his Crew scoring account with a gorgeous ball inside the far post.
The Crew were able to hold on for the 1-0 lead (though Luis Diaz should have made it 2-0, missing by a mile in a half in a shot so bad even Alex Wennberg would have been disappointed).
One game down, and we were off to the Schottenstein Center looking to go 2-0.
It bears mentioning: leaving the Crew game was HELL. It took over an hour to get out of the parking lot and we barely made it to the OSU game in time. I, for one, cannot wait until the new stadium opens up next summer.
Game Two: Michigan Wolverines at Ohio State Buckeyes
We barely made it in time, but we made it. Ohio State, ranked in the top 25 in the nation and on one of the best streaks of late in the country (though, it must be noted, not even the best in the state go Dayton Flyers), were hosting Michigan in a pivotal matchup.
I gotta say it folks: watching Big Ten basketball is a slog. Missed shots (both teams missed 30!), poor defense, inconsistent fouls, overly physical play that more often resembled rugby: if that’s your thing, that’s fine, but after watching one of the most efficient offenses in the country the rest of the season, watching both teams brick layups was kinda annoying. I’m editorializing, but you wouldn’t be reading me if you didn’t want a little bit of that.
It was really an entertaining, close game though. And a game of runs! It feels like it isn’t all that often that both coaches have to call timeouts to stop runs by the other team in the first five minutes of the second half. Also, food is reasonably priced in the arena! Take notes, Nationwide. Both teams traded baskets and neither was able to gain a clear advantage for much of the day until late when Ohio State extended their lead to 17 with just over a minute to play. Big days from the Wessons allowed Ohio State to take the win and (eventually) move to #18 in the polls on Monday morning.
Big days from Duane Washington, Andre Wesson, Kaleb Wesson and CJ Walker. pic.twitter.com/UdXLBvAkqx— Patrick Murphy (@_Pat_Murphy) March 1, 2020
“Just like football” chants rang out in the arena. 2-0, and on to Nationwide Arena.
Traffic was much easier leaving the Schottenstein Center. At least one team seemed prepared for the crowds Sunday.
Game Three: Vancouver Canucks at Columbus Blue Jackets
Going to Nationwide Arena and placing all of our hopes in the Columbus Blue Jackets. What could possibly go wrong?
The Blue Jackets played pretty poorly for the first 40 minutes of the game before a different team entirely appeared to take the ice and scored four unanswered goals en route to beating the Vancouver Canucks 5-3.
The Blue Jackets were outstanding in the third period. Special shoutout to the terrible person I heard call Zach Werenski a bum in the third period. Werenski proceeded to make said person look like a fool immediately, registering an assist on Riley Nash’s goal seconds later before scoring on the power play himself. Love when I don’t even have time to tweet at Old Takes Exposed before someone is made to look silly.
Look, at second intermission, the mood in the arena was dire. The team was playing poorly and, on the heels of Friday’s loss to Minnesota, hopes weren’t high. But, when the Jackets pulled to 3-2, the mood shifted. The fans woke up, the team responded, and by the time the Jackets tied the game at 3, two points felt inevitable. All credit to the Jackets for changing the momentum and coming out of this one with the win.
The Jackets were able to cap a perfect day with a big comeback win that kept them in the playoff hunt. Fans across town were able to celebrate big wins and, for those lucky few able to attend all three games, it was the picture perfect capper on a great day.
Hopefully the city of Columbus is able to offer more days like this in the years going forward and the schedules can align this fortuitously. I would highly encourage anyone who is able to do so to attend as many as possible in the future.
Did you guys attend any of the games? Tell us about it below!