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Massive Predictions: Columbus Crew SC at Philadelphia Union

Last match before the international break. Can Crew SC come away with a win?

Last Saturday marked the first win for Columbus Crew SC in over a month, but the Black & Gold bring a four-match unbeaten streak into Wednesday night's contest with the Philadelphia Union.

Thanks to a run of seven matches without a defeat, the Union sit at the top of the Eastern Conference standings as one of the surprise teams in Major League Soccer in 2016. The club's last loss - one of only three on the season - came back on April 16, 2-1 at the Seattle Sounders.

Columbus leads the all-time series with a 10-5-1 record in MLS play. This includes the early season meeting between the two East foes that saw Philadelphia leave MAPFRE Stadium with a 2-1 victory.

While Crew SC has the better of the total series, the Black & Gold are just 4-4 at Talen Energy Stadium. This record includes one of the more famous comebacks in Black & Gold history, when Columbus came from 2-0 down in the second half with a wild five minute stretch that eventually saw Crew SC win 3-2 and end Philly's hopes for the 2014 MLS Cup Playoffs.

Can Columbus manage another magical night in Philadelphia or will it be a longer international break coming off a rough performance? Here is what our staff thinks, but be sure to leave your thoughts on the match below.

Patrick Murphy

Around the team, there's a renewed sense of confidence after last week's win. As Gregg Berhalter told me this week, the Crew SC players believe they're doing a lot right, but getting a result helps to justify that belief.

With that said, there's still plenty of room for improvement over Saturday's 4-3 victory over Real Salt Lake. A makeshift back line will be even more depleted with the departure of rookie midfielder-turned-defender Rodrigo Saravia to international duty. With Tyson Wahl still out, the defense will be pushed to the brink. Philadelphia doesn't give up many goals, but I see the Black & Gold keeping the ball rolling offensively in this one.
Columbus Crew SC 2 Philadelphia Union 2

Sam Fahmi

I'm interested to see how the team continues to adapt to the Ola Kamara way. I will be even more interested in seeing how other teams start playing against him and how Crew SC adjusts. Also, Berhalter seems to be favoring the left side more right now. May see Martinez get some time since Finlay went a full 90 on Saturday.
Columbus Crew SC 2 Philadelphia Union 2

Kris Landis

I feel like we just left this party. On the back of a less than convincing (if we're being nice) 4-3 victory we head to Chester to play a team that already beat us once this season. At the time we all thought it was an aberration. Turns out, Crew SC just aren't that good, and maybe the Union are.

I don't expect much out of this match. Ola Kamara had a top drawer performance against RSL. Scoring a hat-trick in his third start is fantastic. The downside is, in his third start we probably saw the best game he's ever going to have in Black and Gold. I don't expect him to be a dominant striker, and I don't think he scores this week. I think playing on a short week this team will (continue to) struggle on both sides of the ball, and unless Justin Meram carries this team on his back entirely, we are in for a rough night.

Especially with the defense we are likely to be fielding. With Saravia heading off for NT duty, there's a giant question-mark in a back line that hasn't looked anything above mediocre for much of this season, starters or no. Michael Parkhurst has continued to live down to the his moniker of (Why Is He) Captain, and the "next man up" rotation beside him has provided a mixed bag (at best). The lone bright spot has been Steve Clark, who while still providing at least one "ohcrapohcrapcleartheball!" moment a match, has been making big saves when needed, most obviously the penalty kick this past weekend. But as we've seen time and time again for the last year and a half, he's just as likely to put himself in a bad position and concede a needless goal as he is to make a spectacular save that he has no business making. It's a crap shoot.

So what does this mean for this week? I think it spells a return to that familiar and dreaded score-line.
Philadelphia Union 2 Columbus Crew SC 1

Patrick Guldan

This game is an odd one. A midweek game; the last one for over two weeks. Crew SC is on short rest and is short handed. The Union are on short rest and had to travel from Colorado. That presents opportunities on offense, but challenges on defense.

The offense broke out against the weakened RSL midfield. It's easier to score four goals when you have 21 shots. The Union will also be rotating players, so the offensive opportunities remain. If Columbus can make the Union's tired legs chase, then Crew SC can look to get good looks at goal. It's not just relying on width. Federico Higuain is getting to play more direct. So the offense is a little more varied pushing forward.

On defense, it's all hands on deck. Chad Barson will be tasked with playing center back while a combination of Hector Jimenez, Corey Ashe, and Waylon Francis will play outside. With a makeshift back line, the defense will need extra shielding from the midfield. A midfield will also be running on tired legs with no depth to rotate in.
Columbus Crew SC 2 Philadelphia Union 2

Josh Mlot

I'm hesitant to expect that last week will immediately be the norm. The squad is thin because of international callups and injuries, and its a midweek game, so it's hard to know exactly what to expect (from either team, really). But Philadelphia is leading the Eastern Conference, and that's not for no reason.
Philadelphia Union 2 Columbus Crew SC 1