Game Day 14: Columbus Crew v. Philadelphia Union - Preview

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The Crew are on the road again, facing off against another playoff contender. A win would vault them into the thick of the playoff race.

The Crew could use a win against a playoff team. They haven't done that all year. Failing to beat the Union tonight reinforces that there is a fatal flaw in a team that team President called an MLS Cup contender. They are more struggling to keep in the playoff picture.

The Lineup: Jairo Arrieta is the only addition to the long list of unavailable players for tonight. He started at forward on Saturday and allowed Robert Warzycha to keep Dominic Oduro out wide right. Oduro likely move to forward requiring a change on the right. Josh Williams isn't expected to be ready to return so Chad Barson will be back on the right side.

Justin Meram and Ben Speas have battled for playing time on the left and one may move to the other side of the field. Neither have consistently played right wing, so Warzycha may look for a right sided player. Ethan Finlay made the bench on Saturday and may be in line for his first start tonight.

Likely Starters, Andy Gruenebaum; Chad Barson, Eric Gehrig, Glauber, Tyson Wahl; Tony Tchani, Matias Sanchez; Ethan Finlay, Federico Higuain, Justin Meram; Dominic Oduro

Crew on Offense: Columbus has done well to get chances on transition. Pressing on defense will create easier chances. If the press breaks down the will look to counter against a vulnerable Union defense. Amobi Okugo and Jeff Parke are solid centrally, but Raymon Gaddis and Sheanon Williams are more exposed on the corners.

The Crew will also have an aerial advantage against a Union team that struggles to defend on crosses and set pieces. Columbus has been poor at crossing from wide positions so the best chances likely will come from set pieces. The Black and Gold haven't been able to score off a set piece since D.C. in late April.

Crew on Defense: Stop Jack McInerney. Well, not quite that simple. JackMac takes a lot of shots (45). 19 (42%) of them are on target. He has 10 goals. He finishes chances. Give him a little bit of space and the ball, he will score. The key is to limit those chances.

Eight Union players have assists. Sebastien Le Toux leads the way with four, but defenders Williams and Okugo have three apiece. The entire Union lineup is opportunistic. It will be important to press high to limit chances coming out of the back line. The Crew's forwards and attacking midfielders will have to close down the back line with the rest of midfield ready to cut out passes from the back.

Final Walkthrough: The Crew haven't beat a team ahead of them in the standings this year. That isn't likely to change tonight. The Union can exploit defensive gaffes and Glauber and Gehrig are prone to the occasional marking errors. There isn't enough offense to come back.

Crew 1 - 2 Union

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