Threat in the East? Columbus Crew earn first win under Wilfried Nancy


The Columbus Crew may have sent their MLS counterparts a message Saturday evening: they can be a serious threat in the Eastern Conference.

Having gone through a coaching change this winter – they parted ways with MLS Cup 2020-winning coach Caleb Porter after narrowly missing the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs last season – there were questions about how quickly they'd gel under a new system and philosophy, and if the right pieces were in place. That was all being led, of course, by manager Wilfried Nancy as he left CF Montréal.

After the Crew were humbled by reigning MLS Cup finalist Philadelphia Union (4-1 loss) on Matchday 1, those worries only grew.

But behind a first-half brace from former MLS Cup MVP Lucas Zelarayán, the Crew stormed to their first win under Nancy on Matchday 2. They showed the potential to make noise in 2023 by beating D.C. United, 2-0, at Field.

Nancy, speaking postgame, wasn’t overly thrilled with his side's performance and wanted them to control more of the game – reinforcing the standard he expects.

"We can improve and we will, but I liked the spirit," the 45-year-old Frenchman said. "Yes, I like to attack, but for me … the togetherness, the compete with yourself to be able to beat your opponent, this is really important, so today it was a little bit better."

Nancy is coming off an impressive season at CF Montréal, leading the Canadian side to the Eastern Conference's No. 2 seed and finishing as runner-up for 2022 Sigi Schmid MLS Coach of the Year honors before being courted by Columbus – a move that has to be considered among the biggest changes this offseason.

And on Saturday, Columbus supporters greeted him as such.

Nancy was honored with a tifo that read “VIVE LA CRÉWVOLUTION,” a gesture that left him smiling postgame.

"Amazing, I’m really grateful for that," Nancy said. "Thank you to the fans, thank you for the tifo they did. This is amazing. This is amazing. That’s why I do this job.

"… I do this job also to get emotions, me personally, and this is what I’m looking for during the game. When I came in and saw that, yeah I wanted to play. I wanted to play, but again thank you. Thank you so much."

­­Nancy and the Crew will look to build off Saturday’s victory next week when they visit Toronto FC at BMO Field (Saturday, 7:30 pm ET | MLS Season Pass).