The Crew face Toronto for the first of three match ups today. The Black and Gold have a two game losing streak and haven't scored a goal in 225 minutes. Toronto has a three game losing streak and hasn't won in the league since March 9th. Both teams are struggling through the first third of the season.
The Lineup: Robert Warzycha has had the luxury of a mostly set lineup this season. He's been able to make slight tweaks when Eddie Gaven got injured and Jairo Arrieta went on international duty. Now he has to deal with Arrieta's suspension and a growing injury list that will keep Chad Marshall, Agustin Viana, Ben Speas and Danny O'Rourke out of action. Warzycha has decisions all around the lineup.
Matias Sanchez and Tony Tchani will likely line back up in central midfield. Dominic Oduro's position will depend on Warzycha's choice of replacement at forward. If he feels that Aaron Schoenfeld or Ryan Finley are better suited to start at forward than Justin Meram or Ethan Finlay on the wing, then Oduro may remain in midfield.
There are decisions on the back line as well. Glauber and Tyson Wahl are set at left center back and left back respectively, but Warzycha again has options. Eric Gehrig got some time with the first team and looks to be the choice to start. Chad Barson could play right back and shift Josh Williams to right center back, a better position for him.
I expect to see the Andy Gruenebaum behind Wahl, Glauber, Gehrig, and Williams. Tchani and Sanchez will hold down the middle. Gaven will play on the left with Finlay on the right. Federico Higuain will sit underneath Oduro.
Crew on Offense: With Oduro up top, he can try to extend the Toronto back line and give Higuain more space to work. Defenses have collapsed on Higuain and choked off his passing lanes. Oduro's speed may force Toronto into a deep line on defense.
The other new wrinkle in the Crew offense is the possibility of the team now having a deep lying playmaker. Columbus has suffered from a lack of ingenuity in midfield. Sanchez may be able to provide that while being a bulldog on defense. He uncorked several long passes that freed up Arrieta against Colorado. Being able to spray the ball, Sanchez gives the team a new look.
Crew on Defense: Toronto's offense has been solid throughout the season and that comes down to the finishing prowess of Robert Earnshaw. The Welshman has five goals in ten games for the Reds. He's able to score when given a half chance. He's also able to wriggle free and get that half step to get open. Sticking tight to him will be key and Glauber and his partner will have to keep an eye on him at all times.
The Toronto midfield isn't as dangerous. Luis Silva is still developing and Jeremy Hall, Reggie Lamb, and Hogan Ephraim haven't made too much of an offensive impact. Through 10 games, only Hall has a single goal. Super sub and Academy product Jonathan Osorio has been the impact off the bench with two goals.
Final Walkthrough: The result will depend on if the Crew can score. Earnshaw will get his looks. Given a decent one, he will score. Columbus has to be able to get off better shots. They have taken 37 in the past two games, but they have been low percentage and the shutout streak continues.
Crew 1 - 1 TFC