The Crew have five points at home in 2013. Failing to beat Houston would be another black eye for a team that has taken plenty of lumps at Crew Stadium this year.
The Lineup: The Crew will face the first game without Eddie Gaven in the lineup and there are two likely replacements. Robert Warzycha is unlikely to shake up the formation and will likely swap in another player at right wing.
With Jairo Arrieta returning, Dominic Oduro probably will drop back into the midfield with Arrieta at forward. It puts two key offensive players on the field at the same time. Justin Meram likely will keep his left sided spot with Ben Speas pushing for playing time. Speas is still recovering from injury and Meram has started the last two games.
Glauber's return sends Kevan George to the bench and the only other shift is in central midfield. Danny O'Rourke is also coming off an injury layoff and may push Tony Tchani for his spot.
Crew on Offense: The Crew will have to adapt to life without Gaven. He had only tallied four assists on the year, but he was extremely good at making the right runs into space and making passes that put teammates in good positions to score.
Ben Speas is the most similar player on the roster. The second year man can drift into space and is good at getting the ball and creating with it. He doesn't see the same runs quite yet, but he's crafty in the same vein as Gaven.
Justin Meram is no Eddie Gaven and shoehorning him into the same role will lead to frustration. Meram doesn't pass well and isn't much of a creator, but he is an attacker. He has a knack of getting in front of goal and will shoot. He will likely get a couple good chances if he starts, but may be invisible otherwise.
The rest of the offense will have to adapt as well. Houston is playing with a short roster. Bobby Boswell is out and Rico Clark is expected to play in central defense. The Crew will need to test the deputized defender, a task that Arrieta is well suited for.
Dominic Oduro's likely shift to the right wing will see him probably face off against Mike Chabala. First choice left back Corey Ashe has picked up an injury with the National Team and is unavailable. This is a matchup the suits the Crew well.
Crew on Defense: Columbus gets a big break as Brad Davis and Oscar Boniek Garcia are on international duty. The Dynamo still have Will Bruin and Gilles Barnes at forward, but they won't be supported by the midfield width and skill of Davis or Garcia. Dominic Kinnear's teams are well drilled and they keep it simple. The result will likely hinge on how well the understudies perform.
Houston will have to rely on Andrew Driver and Warren Creavalle to supply width. Driver is more at home on the right, but has played left wing this year in several solid performances. Creavalle has a single start on the year, but does have two goals and an assist in limited minutes. Both players are dangerous, but a step down from Davis and Garcia.
Final Walkthrough: Columbus should win this game on paper. They are missing a key player, but Houston has two holes on the back line and both wide players out. The Crew are well suited to attack the weaknesses that injuries and call ups create.
Crew 2 - 1 Dynamo