The Crew play their first of three games this week on Saturday night in San Jose, as they take on the Earthquakes at 10:30 pm in Buck Shaw Stadium.
Columbus is coming off a 2-1 home victory over FC Dallas last Saturday night. In the game, Dallas took an early lead. However, the Crew were able to score twice in the second half after Dallas went down to ten men to earn all three points. The Crew are 3-4-2 (11 points) this season, sitting in eight place in the Eastern Conference.
San Jose tied Chivas USA at home last weekend, 1-1, after an 89th minute equalizing goal by forward Alan Gordon. The Earthquakes are currently second in the league with 23 points (7-2-2). They are also tied for second in MLS in the goals scored department. Forward Chris Wondolowski has scored 11 of the team's 22 goals, good for first in the league.
Prediction and much more after the jump...After having to play with a depleted side the past few weeks, the Crew are slowly but surely getting healthy. Midfielder Dilly Duka should finally be able to start again after picking up a hamstring injury in the opening minutes of Columbus' season opener against Colorado. He will likely be taking Tony Tchani's spot on one side of midfield, while Eddie Gaven will fill the other wing position. Duka and Gaven are both skilled enough to be able to switch wings throughout the match numerous times.
At forward, Emilio Renteria and Justin Meram are the likely starters. Renteria looked more dangerous against Dallas than he has for weeks. Perhaps he is finally starting to find his form from years past. Meram came on as a sub against Dallas and was extremely active, scoring his first ever MLS goal. His played should have earned him a starting spot. Forward Olman Vargas may be well enough to play some minutes toward the end of the game. He is still recovering from a hamstring injury. Expect Vargas and rookie Ethan Finlay to be Coach Robert Warzycha's offensive subs.
San Jose is full of very stellar MLS-caliber players, yet none are necessarily household names other than Wondolowski. The Earthquakes possess former Crew forward Steven Lenhart. Lenhart has four goals on the season. Right back Steven Beitashour already has five assists. Midfielders Simon Dawkins and Rafael Baca are integral to the team's success. Captain Ramiro Corrales represents what the team is entirely about: solid and very sturdy performances every game.
Prediction: Crew 2-3 Earthquakes
Columbus' quality of play has been steadily improving over the past month. However, I can't see them leaving California with even a point. While the Crew will get on the board, San Jose's deadly attack and stellar midfield play will allow them to prevail on Saturday night.