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Fresh Faces For Columbus Crew Hoping for Different Results

As the Crew travel to take on the Timbers, changes are coming. Some will be forced, but recent poor form may make room for new faces.

Trevor Ruszkowksi-USA TODAY Spor

"They'll be some changes," Columbus Crew head coach Gregg Berhalter said about his plans for his team's game on Satuday.

"Obviously we have to make some of them and others we'll do, so they'll be some."

Last week, the Crew finished a stretch of three games in seven days, all three losses and all by shutout. After the 1-0 home loss to the Vancouver Whitecaps, Berhalter admitted he should have made changes.

"You can see the difference, it was clear," he said in the post-game on Saturday. "[Vancouver] had a bunch of players that were fresh, running around and we didn't have it physically.

"I'll take responsibility for that. I think I should've put some fresh guys in... In this case, I think we should've gone with some fresh legs looking back on it."

Berhalter will be forced to make two changes against the Portland Timbers due to international call-ups, but the coach said there might be other changes as well.

"Obviously we have to replace [Michael Parkhurst] and [Waylon Francis] and from there, there will probably be some different looks," Berhalter said.

Of course, the head coach said something similar last week, declaring there would likely be rotation in a week of heavy match congestion, yet the lineup remained the same.

With Parkhurst and Francis already gone, Giancarlo Gonzalez leaving the team on Sunday, and the possibility that Jairo Arrieta could be called up for Costa Rica if an injury occurs before the World Cup, the lineup must be reshuffled in the coming weeks.

The defense, which has featured the same four starters in every game, will be shaken up and players like Tyson Wahl and Eric Gehrig have been mentioned as potential replacements.

"For me I was told, once we had our starting lineup set in stone, to be prepared for this time," Wahl said this week.

"So I've been training hard and trying to do as much extra work as possible because obviously I haven't played much."

These players lack of playing time isn't due to their ability. Berhalter has stated that he has confidence in the depth of his squad, but it is hard to find minutes for players with the likes of Gonzalez and Parkhurst ahead of them.

This does not mean that these players have not been performing when given the chance.

"I think our [reserve] back line has been pretty solid," Wahl said.

"We have other guys that can play too. I think Gehrig's had a great year, great preseason. He's looked strong. Chad Barson played a lot of games last year too so there's definitely some guys that are capable and they might be called upon in a really important time of the year."

Another potential change could be moving versatile full back Josh Williams from the right side to the left. The only true left-sided defender on the roster is rookie Ben Sweat, so Williams, who has played the position previously, would provide more experience.

"[Greg's] brought it up a couple of times; he told me to be ready, I'm always ready," Williams said of playing on the left.

"You never know what can happen until he puts out the lineup. I'm just going to stay prepared, either right or left. I told him I'd be willing to do it, anything that will help."

If Williams does flip sides, it would likely open the door for Barson at right back. The second-year homegrown player from Akron played in 20 games last season, but has only made one appearance in 2014.

No matter who gets the start, the defense will have to be together as a group come Saturday, as the Timbers have the weapons to take advantage of an out of sorts back line.

"They have a lot of good threats up top, some dangerous players," Williams said. "[Head coach Caleb Porter] always has his team ready to go and fired up."

Portland may have only scored 13 goals on the season, but have talented players waiting to explode. The Timbers already have four players with two or more goals, with Gaston Fernandez leading the way with four.

Both teams come into this game desperate for three points. The Crew have not won in seven games and Portland has only managed one win on the season.

The good news for fans is both teams playing an attractive brand of soccer that is fairly similar.

"It's a team that likes to play," Berhalter said of the Timbers. "They're one of the teams in the league that you can classify like that. I think there are similarities in terms of the philosophy."

With the Black and Gold making changes and Portland still figuring things out, this game will likely be a tight affair and could come down to who makes the first mistake. Berhalter does not want that to be his side.

"I think the first goal is very important in this game," he said.

"We're going to have to fight for the first goal, fight to not give up the first goal, and then it will be an interesting game."

Projected Starting XI

Columbus Crew vs Portland Timbers - Football tactics and formations