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Preview: The Columbus Crew v. Houston Dynamo

Will the Crew free fall continue or will they hang around the fringes of the playoff hunt?

Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

The Crew are technically still in the playoff hunt, but not in any real way after two consecutive losses. No changes are forthcoming and Columbus really just appears to be playing out the season after sleepwalking against New England and Toronto. Without something special, starting tonight, 2013 is soon to be a season to forget.

The Lineup: Only a late Gruenebaum injury will force changes. Lampson; Williams, O'Rourke, Marshall, Viana; Sanchez, Trapp, Anor; Higuain, Oduro, Arrieta

Crew on Offense: The goals still won't come. The Crew are profligate with the ball and have one of the worst conversion rates in MLS, they are fifth in shots per game. They drop to tenth for shots on goal. They are only 14th in goals scored.

Head Coach Robert Warzycha has pushed the idea of shooting and good things will come, but this has only caused players to press themselves into unfamiliar roles. Federico Higuain has 62 shots, more than Dominic Oduro. He's often firing low percentage shots from distance. This isn't what he's best at, but he's obviously trying to shoulder the load.

With the season all but a lost one, it may pay to try tweaking instructions to try and keep possession a little bit longer in an effort to find an unlocking pass. Higuain is capable, as is Bernardo Anor or Ben Speas. Matias Sanchez and Wil Trapp are happy to play with the ball at their feet. This team as set up now has the technical ability to play possession a bit more, it's worth trying in a low leverage situation.

Crew on Defense: How do you find consistency? I'm sure the Crew defensive unit is trying to uncover the same answer. Perhaps the answer lies on the other side of the ball. A cheap turnover off of a goal kick at midfield led to the second goal last week, try keeping possession first. Houston can't score if they don't have the ball.

There is one thing the Crew are desperately missing and haven't adequately replaced. They have also struggled more since Glauber went down with injury. Danny O'Rourke has settled in as Chad Marshall's partner, but isn't the same class. Glauber leads the team in interceptions, offsides won, and blocked shots. His interceptions total ranks second in MLS, only behind Dejan Jakovic and just ahead Djimi Traore and Chris Schuler, two well thought of center backs. Only the All-Star Aurelien Collen forces more offsides.

Chad Marshall's performances have slipped since Glauber went down as he's had to cover more. Danny O'Rourke's move to the back line have caused tumult in midfield. The return of Viana may provide some help for a struggling back line.

Final Walkthrough: Houston has a lot of distributed firepower and built on a solid defense. This is the blueprint that the Crew were likely targeting, but unable to execute. Will Bruin can score, Gilles Barnes, Warren Creavalle, Andrew Driver, and Brad Davis can create a goal when needed. Even though he's goaless on the year, Oscar Boniek García is dangerous. After struggling at home they've not lost in three. Make it four.

Crew 1 - Houston 1