It’s the second game in four days for Columbus Crew SC after a 1-1 draw with Toronto FC at home left the Black & Gold more than disappointed. A more well-rested D.C. United comes to town on Dollar Night at MAFPRE Stadium and Crew SC hopes to send the many expected in attendance home happy.
After the midweek draw Columbus found itself at the bottom of the Major League Soccer standings thanks to a win by the Chicago Fire. According to head coach Gregg Berhalter though, Wednesday was actually a bit of progress, as Crew SC got a point closer to the red line that indicates which teams make the MLS Cup Playoffs.
D.C. currently sits right below that line with 21 points through 18 matches played. Of United’s five wins, only one has come away from RFK Stadium, although the Black & Red have managed five draws away from home.
While Wednesday was important, Saturday’s second contest in a three-match home stand is vital. Before this important encounter, we turned to Adam Taylor of SB Nation’s Black & Red United to provide a little insight into United’s 2016 season.
Questions for Black & Red United
Massive Report: This is one of the oldest rivalries in MLS, but the intensity that was there in the old days doesn't seem to be present any more. How do United fans feel about Columbus? Do you get the sense the players still view this as a rivalry?
Black & Red United: Expansion teams -- especially those closer to DC -- along with a lack of playoff series and other important/dramatic matches between the two clubs have definitely lowered the temperature on this rivalry over the years, at least from my perspective. It's a lot easier to send traveling support between the District and Philadelphia or New York than between here and Ohio. There was a perception here that the Crew were a little bit eager to throw elbows and to dive when Berhalter first took over, but even that has softened.
As for the players on the field, I'm sure Ben Olsen is reminding them about the 5-0 loss to end the regular season last year, but outside of that I can't say that the Crew are among the top few rivals to the players' minds.
MR: The scoring has been spread around for D.C. this year. Alvaro Saborio leads the side with four goals, but then three players have three finishes. Is this intentional in the way United play? Would Ben Olsen prefer to have one guy step up and take hold of most of the scoring?
BRU: I think Olsen would love to have a reliable goalscoerer to take on a bigger load, not least because it would force teams to key on him and potentially create some space for United's other attackers. That said, Olsen has always preached a "next man up" philosophy for this team, and he even as he tries to find that No. 9, he won't be using this as an excuse for the team's scoring woes.
MR: D.C. currently sits just outside the playoff mark with 21 points through 18 games. One road win and only 17 goals scored seems to standout to me as issues, but from your more knowledgable perspective what has kept the Black & Red from making more of the first half of 2016?
BRU: Road woes and a lack of scoring are pretty much the big things. Injuries to Chris Rolfe and Patick Nyarko haven't helped, and neither has the inconsistent form of Fabian Espindola or, honestly, some of Ben Olsen's tactical and lineup choices. I think the move to the 4-1-4-1 is probably permanent, but some of the wrinkles still have to be ironed out. A big help -- literally -- would be acquiring a proper target striker. Alvaro Saborio has generally (though not always) been better coming off the bench than starting, so finding a top-line No. 9 who can score consistently and hold the ball up to bring teammates in while giving Benny the option to move Sabo to the bench could do wonders for the team.
On the other side of the ball, the team is solid as can be, even wracking up some clean sheets during Bill Hamid's long absence to start the year.
To read Massive Report’s answers to Black & Red United’s questions, head on over to their site and check out the Behind Enemy Lines piece.