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The Sports Page: Crew Announce 2011 Schedule

 Corey Barnes The Sports Page: Crew Announce 2011 Schedule
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Columbus Crew 2011 Season Schedule:

Mid-February is a strange part of the sports calendar. Professional football is entering hibernation. Professional basketball and hockey are starting to prepare for their respective playoff pushes. College basketball is waiting for March to begin and baseball is getting ready to relocate to warmer climes. Amidst all this activity, Major League Soccer released the schedules for all 18 clubs last week. (Vancouver White Caps FC and Portland Timbers are new this year.)

Below is the schedule for the Columbus Crew:

  • 2/22 Tues. REAL SALT LAKE (CCL QF1) 8 p.m. FSC
  • 3/1 Tues. Real Salt Lake (CCL QF2) 10 p.m. FSC
  • 3/19 Sat. D.C. United* (MLS FirstKick 2011) 7:30 p.m.
  • 3/26 Sat. NEW YORK RED BULLS* 4 p.m.
  • 4/2 Sat. FC DALLAS 4 p.m.
  • 4/9 Sat. Chivas USA 10:30 p.m.
  • 4/16 Sat. SPORTING KANSAS CITY* 7:30 p.m.
  • 4/23 Sat. Toronto FC* 4:00 p.m.
  • 4/30 Sat. VANCOUVER WHITECAPS FC 7:30 p.m.
  • 5/7 Sat. SEATTLE SOUNDERS FC 7:30 p.m
  • 5/14 Sat. San Jose Earthquakes 10:30 p.m.
  • 5/21 Sat. Portland Timbers 10:30 p.m.
  • 5/28 Sat. CHIVAS USA 7:30 p.m.
  • 6/4 Sat. New York Red Bulls* 7:30 p.m.
  • 6/8 Wed. REAL SALT LAKE 7:30 p.m.
  • 6/12 Sun. CHICAGO FIRE* 4 p.m.
  • 6/18 Sat. Houston Dynamo* 8:30 p.m.
  • 6/26 Sun. COLORADO RAPIDS 8 p.m.
  • 7/2 Sat. FC Dallas 9 p.m.
  • 7/6 Wed. Vancouver Whitecaps FC 10 p.m.
  • 7/16 Sat. SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES 7:30 p.m.
  • 7/20 Wed. LA Galaxy 10:30 p.m.
  • 7/23 Sat. PORTLAND TIMBERS 8 p.m.
  • 7/30 Sat. Real Salt Lake 9 p.m.
  • 8/6 Sat. Colorado Rapids 9 p.m.
  • 8/13 Sat. NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION* 7:30 p.m.
  • 8/20 Sat. PHILADELPHIA UNION* 7:30 p.m.
  • 8/27 Sat. Seattle Sounders FC 4 p.m.
  • 9/10 Sat. TORONTO FC* 7:30 p.m.
  • 9/14 Wed. HOUSTON DYNAMO* 7:30 p.m.
  • 9/17 Sat. Philadelphia Union* 7:30 p.m.
  • 9/24 Sat. LA GALAXY 7:30 p.m.
  • 9/28 Wed. Sporting Kansas City* 8:30 p.m.
  • 10/2 Sun. D.C. UNITED* 4 p.m.
  • 10/15 Sat. New England Revolution * 7:30 p.m.
  • 10/22 Sat. Chicago Fire* 8:30 p.m.

HOME GAMES IN CAPS
* Eastern Conference Opponent
— Eastern Times listed, Schedule is Subject to Change —

A few games of interest:

  • Tuesday 2/22: First CONCACAF contest of 2011
  • Saturday 3/19: At D.C. United. Our first look at the Crew vs. a regular season opponent
  • Saturday 3/26: Columbus’ home opener against the New York Red Bulls
  • Saturday 5/21: The Crew’s first ever trip to Portland to play the Timbers
  • Sunday 6/26: The Colorado Rapids return to Crew Stadium for the first time since bouncing the Black and Gold in the MLS Cup playoffs last season
  • Wednesday 7/6: The Crew’s first ever trip to Vancouver versus the Whitecaps
  • Saturday 9/24: A tough home contest against the LA Galaxy
  • Saturday 10/22: Final regular season game, against the Fire in Chicago

This year’s season will be slightly longer than previous years. With the addition of two new Western Conference teams, Major League Soccer has altered each team’s schedule so that every team will play every other team both at home and away. Therefore, the Crew will play 34 regular season MLS games, in addition to two (and hopefully more) CONCACAF contests.

Columbus Blue Jackets Week in Review:

Judging a season while it progresses is often a delicate business. In an 82 game campaign every team is bound to go through both highs and lows, moments of seemingly endless euphoria and seemingly cataclysmic defeat. Given the choice, however, the average athlete would probably prefer for his team to get hot at the end of the season than at the beginning. Momentum down the stretch especially when fighting for a playoff spot, is a valuable commodity and can often propel an under-appreciated team over a more highly touted one. Right now, it is safe to say that momentum currently calls Columbus, Ohio home. The Blue Jackets faced a very full slate of games in the past week and carried themselves proudly, accruing a 3-1 record.

The Blue Jackets opened play with a trip to the Steel City to face the Penguins. Olympic hero Sidney Crosby missed the game while recovering from a concussion and his right hand man Evgeni Malkin was out of commission as well. Their presence was certainly missed by the home team as the Unionmen handled the Pens 4-1. What impressed me most about this game was neither that the Jackets beat Pittsburgh (further frustrating Western Pennsylvania, tee hee) nor that they were able to handle a good Eastern Conference club on their home ice. I was impressed that the Jackets made it look easy. They were playing fast and as a unit. The four goals came from four different players – Rick Nash, Samuel Pahlsson, Jakub Voracek, and Antoine Vermette. The Penguins’ third period power play goal notwithstanding, Steve Mason kept the net off limits while recording 32 saves. The game was won on every line by every player. Cohesiveness like that is critical in the final two months. More importantly, Columbus did not make any foolish mistakes. They were saving those for the next night.

Playing back to back games can be grueling for even the toughest NHL veteran. Luckily for the Jackets, both they and the San Jose Sharks were on the back end of a two day-two game set. Theoretically, whichever team is home in this situation should have an advantage. Theoretically. The Sharks proved that hypothesis false last Wednesday with a 3-2 win in the Buckeye State. The Pride of Nationwide came out of the gate with fire in their bellies recording two power play goals in the first period – one each from Kristian Huselius and Grant Clitsome. After those two goals, San Jose net minder Antti Niemi settled down and wound up with a gaudy 42 saves on the night. San Jose tied the score in the second period and tallied the game winner with a little less than five minutes to go that same period. Not even the presence of the Arch City Army could rally the Flag Carriers to victory. In the coming weeks, this loss may gall the Jackets a bit. They absolutely cannot expect to both lose games at home and make the playoffs; home ice must be defended at all costs. That’s the difference between a playoff beard in May and being the 8th overall pick in June. Fortunately, the Jackets made the best of another chance to establish themselves at home a few nights later.

The Good Guys continued their brief home stretch with a game against the Colorado Avalanche on Friday night. Mathieu Garon got the start and earned the win in a well-played 3-1 victory. CBJ trailed by one at the first intermission but slowly got back into the game. Rick Nash and Derick Brassard found the net in the second period to give Columbus the lead. Derek MacKenzie tallied an empty netter at the end of the final period to round out the win. Garon was sensational and recorded 31 saves on the night. The week at this point could already be called a success but there was another opponent waiting in Texas.

On Sunday, the Unionmen traveled to Dallas to wrangle with the Stars, hoping to gain some ground on yet another conference foe ahead of them in the standings. Dallas’ Brad Richards struck first in the first period while the Stars held a man advantage. Columbus was down for a mere 46 seconds before Matt Calvert put in a wrist shot equalizer. Rick Nash found the net in the second period to give Columbus the lead, which would prove to be the game winner. Even though Dallas outshot the Jackets 14-9 in the third period, CBJ’s staunch defense refused to yield anything to the home team. Despite their best efforts, including pulling the goalie with a minute to go, Dallas was not able to manage more than a handful of shots in the final five minutes. Columbus keeper Steve Mason finished with 29 saves on the night and recorded another “W.” Between the two teams, the Jackets simply looked sharper, hungrier, and more equipped for a playoff run.

At the conclusion of play Sunday, Columbus boasts a 28-23-5 record which is good for 61 points. They currently occupy the twelfth spot in the ultra-competitive Western Conference. How big is the disparity between the conferences? If Columbus played in the East, they would be one point out of the final playoff spot. As it stands, they are four points out of the 8th seed in the West which means dreaming about the postseason is not unreasonable. The Blue Jackets have won five of six games and are 7-3 in their last ten contests. They need to keep this play up however; momentum is easy to lose and hard to regain.

After such a busy patch, the Jackets will find some relief in only having two games this week. The Pride of Nationwide hosts the L.A. Kings on Wednesday and will travel to the Windy City on Friday to play the Blackhawks. Each game is important as LA and Chicago are both ahead of Columbus in the Western Conference standings and a pair of wins would go a long way to building their playoff résumé.

Corey Barnes is a third year at The Ohio State University studying business. He hails from Cleveland, Ohio and has a profound understanding of sports suffering and mediocrity. In addition to this column, he also writes sports things at buckeyenerd.tumblr.com and can be followed on The Twitter @Corey_Barnes.

Blue Jackets game photos from bluejackets.nhl.com.

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