The Union, after looking terrible in preseason, has started 2013 with two wins and two losses. Their six points are just one less than the Crew's total.
Crew on Offense - Federico Higuain manages the offense. He's averaged over 120 touches a game so far this season. Getting him time on the ball will be key. He had a lot of room against D.C. and will likely find some space against the Union's diamond formation. Brian Carroll will be asked to keep tabs on the Argentine playmaker. Perry Kitchen was in the same situation and found it very tough going.
It's not entirely clear who will surround Higuain. Dominic Oduro and Ben Speas are likely fighting for the last remaining spot in the attacking quartet. The coaches pick will man the opposite flank from Eddie Gaven. Both players will have to pick good runs to pull Jeff Parke and Amobi Okugo out of central defense to open up the defense.
It's clear the final pieces on offense are at the back. Josh Williams and Tyson Wahl push up to spread the field, but they are most dangerous on set pieces. Chad Marshall, Glauber, Agustin Viana, and Williams are a terror as they attack the box.
Crew on Defense - Columbus will have to account for the movement of Sebastian La Toux. The Frenchman plays best when given room to float. He's very good at picking his runs and drifting into space, much like an old fox in the box style striker. He has a single goal in 2013, but has added a couple assists. He's the creative force in this lineup and Viana and Danny O'Rourke will have to be mindful as he floats through the lines.
If LaToux is the creator, Jack McInerney is the finisher. His two goals and eight shots lead the team. Both of his goals have given the Union the win. At 20, he's in his fourth year as a pro and second as a starter. He excels with his off the ball runs and is a solid finisher. He can be marked out of the game, but it will be a team effort to do so as he'll pop up across the field.
With La Toux serving up balls to McInerney, Okugo, and Connor Casey, the Union set pieces can be dangerous. The Crew can keep pressure on the Philadelphia midfield and away from the dangerous attacking zones to nullify the threat.
Final Walkthrough - The Crew have more talent around the field than the Union. They can press high and choke the midfield to force Philadelphia into turnovers; keeping the ball away from La Toux and McInerney. The Union's diamond midfield will be wide open for Higuain. Without an adequate plan to close him down, Philadelphia will be in for a very long afternoon.
Crew 2 - Union 1