After the drama of last weekend's 4-4 draw spilled over into this week and ultimately resulted in the trade of Kei Kamara, Columbus Crew SC has to get back to doing what the team is meant to do: Play soccer.
It will not be an easy task for head coach Gregg Berhalter's side. Not only do they have to refocus after the last week, but the best team in Major League Soccer comes to Columbus. The Colorado Rapids and their 23 points on the season will present a variety of challenges for the Black & Gold including an array of scoring options.
The penalty kick debacle aside, Crew SC let a 4-1 second half lead slip away in the club's last match with the Montreal Impact. There are plenty of questions about where this team is, both on and off the field. Can this group come together and start to turn around a disappointing season with a win over the early Supporter's Shield leaders? Let's see what our staff thinks and leave your thoughts/predictions in the comment section below.
It's been a rough week. There's no way around it, all the controversy and trade saga had to have been a distraction. It could be very tough to immediately find your groove, especially with a new starting striker. On top of that, Colorado has been very good this far. Jermaine Jones has had an unbelievable impact on that group, the guys they brought in to make an impact last year finally are and the defense has remained stout. Stir all of the above-mentioned things into a pot and I think you get a Rapids win.
Colorado Rapids 1 Columbus Crew SC 0
It's been a dramatic week, and I could see this week's match being dramatic as well. The obvious question will be up front, with Ola Kamara slotting in for Kei, and I don't think it will be a like-for-like transition. He's a slightly different type of player, less dynamic, but still with ability to really threaten. It may take time for him to find his feet in this offense and develop a rapport with Fedrico Higuain, Ethan Finlay, and Justin Meram. Goals may come from elsewhere for the next few games, and I don't think that's a bad thing.
The real question is at the back. This team has been inconsistent at best defensively, and at times downright dreadful. If Gaston Sauro is healthy, that'll be a big plus, though that is not a knock on Tyson Wahl who continues to acquit himself well, and this team will need to be steady at the back during the transition to a new target man.
The most interesting positional matchup for me, though, will be who matches up with Jermaine Jones in the middle of the park. If it's Mohammed Saeid and Wil Trapp starting, which it seems it will likely be, that could cause problems. Neither Wil nor Mo are very physical players, and that may be this team's undoing. If Tony Tchani is healthy, which is a question mark, I hope he starts.
This is a Rapids team that for the first time in a long time doesn't suck. In fact they're quite good. I'd be quite happy with a point here, to be perfectly honest.
Columbus Crew SC 1 Colorado Rapids 1
Drama, drama, drama. Now it's time to play soccer. Although Crew SC had a midweek game, it was a friendly and not one that required supreme focus. This is the opportunity the Black & Gold have been looking for to put the Kei Kamara situation behind them.
After the 4-4 draw last week that appeared to be an easy win after 53 minutes, I expect some changes from Gregg Berhalter. He called his team's performance immature and there's only one way to change that. We know there will be a different forward starting for the first time this season, likely just another Kamara, but where else could there be swaps?
Frankly though, I don't think it's going to matter. The Rapids may be an early season surprise, but they are a good team. Jermaine Jones has come in and helped spark the team's attack, but there's more to it than that. The Black & Gold will have to be on the team's defensive best in this match and I'm yet to see the defenders have 90 minutes of focus.
Maybe the turnaround starts next week.
Colorado Rapids 3 Columbus Crew SC 1
This team is broken and today is the first chance put the pieces back together. Kei Kamara is gone, but it's not clear if that fixes the problems in the locker room. Ola Kamara will start, but Berhalter has already started changing the lineup with Waylon Francis getting benched and Mohammed Saied getting a run of games. Other underperforming players will also be under threat of benching. So to say that everyone has something to prove is an understatement.
The reset may end up helping the non-performers on offense. Without the crutch of Kei, the offense must get more multidimensional. Justin Meram and Ethan Finlay will have the chance to interchange more with Ola and Federico Higuain. They have the talent to make an impact in games, but there may have been too much deference/reliance to Kei rather than getting into the right positions. With the opportunity, they break out.
Crew SC with a mild shock over the surprise best team in MLS.
Columbus Crew SC 2 Colorado Rapids 1
Columbus Crew SC comes out with the same formation, with Kamara replacing Kamara at the forward spot. Gaston Sauro and Waylon Francis make a return to their regularly scheduled positions. While things will look mostly the same. Look for less ariel crosses and more on the ground into the box. Ola Kamara does poses some excellent footwork, and some of that will be on display. The whole team comes out to show that it is not missing a beat and it is stronger without Kei Kamara. If the team comes out flat, dull and uninspired....well....we have a bigger problem. I'm hoping for the best and that Berhalter hit the right notes this week. I change my prediction from the podcast to a Crew win.
Columbus Crew SC 2 Colorado Rapids 1
I see this game going one of two ways. Either Kei Kamara was the clubhouse cancer we were lead to believe he is, and the team responds well or he was well liked and trading him will further fragment the team. Ethan Finlay and Federico Higuian will have a new sense of freedom on the attack and I expect them both to get on the score sheet. Steve Clark has been outstanding recently and that should continue. This should be a game where we see the Crew SC we know and love.
Columbus Crew SC 2 Colorado Rapids 0