The British are coming.
Most soccer leagues around the world operate on a fall-to-spring schedule comparable to our NBA and NHL schedules, only even longer and more grueling. So every year around this time, European football clubs cross the Atlantic for preseason tune-ups against MLS competition.
The Crew has tangled with the likes of Aston Villa, Fulham and Everton in the past. This year they’ve lined up an exhibition against another English Premier League club, Stoke City FC.
The exhibition against Stoke is Tuesday, smack in the midst of a busy week for Columbus soccer fans that also includes Saturday’s home Crew game against DC United and the MLS All-Star game Wednesday in Philadelphia, which pits a Crew-less squad of MLS talent against UEFA Champions League victors Chelsea FC.
Before Stoke City arrives in the Arch City, let’s brush up on the British club’s background. (And if you didn’t know the Arch City was Columbus, brush up on our own local history, too!)
Where is Stoke City? The club is located in Stoke-on-Trent, a landlocked city in a county called Staffordshire located in England’s West Midlands region. The city’s nickname is “The Potteries,” so the club’s nickname is “The Potters,” which is about as quaint as it gets.
How good are they? Although Stoke finished 14th out of 20 Premier League clubs last season, they’re a plucky bunch — a small-market club that has managed to avoid relegation to lower leagues since climbing into the Premier League in 2008. Actually, they’re pretty similar to the Crew.
Who are their stars? English national team striker Peter Crouch is the big name, but Irishmen Glenn Whelan and Jonathan Walters competed for their country in Euro 2012. Goalkeeper Asmir Begovic suits up for Bosnia and Herzegovina’s national team.
Does the Crew have a chance at beating them? Definitely! Although Columbus struggled in a 3-0 loss to Newcastle United last year, the Crew has a 2-3-2 all-time record against English Premier League competition and is 9-4-2 overall in international exhibitions. Chances are a gutsy squad like Stoke won’t sleepwalk through the match the way a more prestigious club might, but neither will Columbus.
What’s at stake? Nothing but pride, but Columbus could use a morale booster after a two-game losing streak to kick off July.