Playing in their third consecutive midweek game, the Columbus Crew travel to PPL Park on Wednesday night to take on the Philadelphia Union (8:00).
The Crew are sitting outside of the playoffs by only four points with ten games left in the season, and they are just now starting to hit their stride. The mid-season acquisitions of Jairo Arrieta and Federico Higuain have propelled the team in recent weeks to a 10-8-6 record (36 points). Columbus played the New England Revolution at home on Saturday night, coming out with a 4-3 win. Arrieta and Higuain both scored twice.
Meanwhile, Philadelphia is most likely already out of the playoffs. The Union have 25 points with a 7-12-4 record. Their last win came a month ago, and their four games since have resulted in two losses and two draws. They played last Friday at home against Real Salt Lake, and the game ended in a 0-0 deadlock.
More after the jump...While some lineup changes are to be expected for the Crew, one major change is already known. Starting goalie Andy Gruenebaum did not make the trip to the Philly after picking up a lower-back injury in the game against New England. Replacing him will be rookie Matt Lampson. Lampson played the second half of Saturday's game and looked very settled for his minimal professional experience.
Central defender Carlos Mendes left the last game with a hamstring injury and will be out for a few weeks. Julius James could fill in for Mendes next to Chad Marshall, as he did for the last 50 minutes against the Revolution. Another option coach Robert Warzycha has is to play Nemanja Vukovic at left back and move Josh Williams over to the center, the position he excelled at earlier in the year.
In the midfield, Danny O'Rourke and Milovan Mirosevic are the best pairing if the Crew use a diamond formation. In front of them, Higuain, Eddie Gaven, and Dilly Duka are some of the most dangerous attacking players right now. Arrieta should start alone up top. With another game coming Saturday, expect some of these players to be subbed out early depending on the game's circumstances.
For Philadelphia, midfielder Gabriel Gomez leads the team with five goals. Young forward Jack McInerney has come on a little of late, scoring four goals and picking up two assists this season. Attacking midfielder Michael Farfan has four assists this year. Former Crew player Brian Carroll holds down the midfield for the Union.
Prediction: Crew 1-0 Union
Columbus needs to continue their momentum to make the playoffs. They reverse the score from the meeting on April 14th and win, 1-0.