Game Day 2: Columbus Crew v. Vancouver Whitecaps Preview

USA TODAY Sports

The Crew hope to escape the Pacific Northwest with another win.

The Crew face off against the Vancouver Whitecaps in the second game of their West Coast swing. This game will likely prove to be a sterner test than last week's win against Chivas USA.

The Whitcaps were a playoff team last year, sneaking in before being bounced by the L.A. Galaxy. Not content with the end of the season, Vancouver reworked the roster and added English veteran midfielder Nigel Rio-Coker, Daigo Kobayashi from Japan, and the explosive rookie, Kekuta Manneh to the attack that included Kenny Miller and Darron Mattocks.

The retooled offense showed a few flashes of life against Toronto FC last week, but struggled against the organized defense that the fellow Canadians put up. They did start to find some offensive tempo in the second half, but still only put one goal on the scoreboard.

The Crew on Offense: Federico Higuain will find the ball and the offense looks much better when he has space to work. The Whitecaps midfield will provide more resistance that Chivas did, so it's important to see where Higuain picks up the ball. If he's forced to drop too deep, the offense suffers.

With the busy Vancouver midfield, the Crew's outside tandem of Oduro and Gaven will likely pull in tighter to give Higuain outlets, but both will have to look to attack to pin back the Whitecap outside backs. The left side is especially important as Gaven will be matched up with Young-Pyo Lee. Tucking in two far will allow him to switch off and possibly get forward too easily.

Crew on Defense: Vancouver will look to use thier speed to play past the towering backline. Long balls won't work against a team playing four players that are taller than 6'2". The Whitecaps have the team speed to make the Crew backline nervous. Glauber and Chad Marshall will likely have to sit deeper and force the play infront of them.

While Vancouver's attackers play narroer, Josh Willams and Tyson Wahl will have to pick thier spots to go forward as Manneh or Mattocks can break into the channels. They also have to watch for Young-Pyo and Rochat overlapping.

In the middle, Agustin Viana had an excellent game against Chivas. The team is hoping for another outstanding performance no matter who he is paired with to corrale Gershon Koffie and Rio-Coker who control the game from the center of the field. Koffie and Rio-Coker can act as screening midfielders, but they are also players who can keep the ball moving and even create in thier own right. Saddling these two would slow the Whitecap offense as Toronto showed.

Final Walkthrough: The unless the Crew can shackle Koffie and the rest of the Whitcaps central midfield, they will struggle. Too much time to move the ball will allow the Whitcaps to pick out the right runs.

Likewise, Higuain creates so much magic with the ball, Vancouver will be targeting him. If he's marked out of the game, the team's wing play becomes that much more valuable to breaking pressure and creating chances, otherwise it's long ball.

Whitecaps 1 - Crew 1

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