The final 2016 regular season matchup between Columbus Crew SC and the Philadelphia Union kicks off in a few hours at MAPFRE Stadium, and the competitive visitors come to town with a chance to gain ground in the Eastern Conference.
Crew SC is languishing near the bottom of the standings in ninth, but the team will be looking to parlay positive momentum from attaining its first road win of the year Saturday at New England, 2-0, into the Wednesday night contest.
Philadelphia, in fourth currently, is coming off a defeat at home to second-place Toronto FC and has dropped three of its last five decisions.
The last time the two teams met was also on a Wednesday, albeit way back at the beginning of June. It was a 3-2 win for the home club at Talen Energy Stadium. Ethan Finlay notched two assists in that game, with Ola Kamara and Cristian Martinez being the scorers he helped. More notably, though—unfortunately for Black & Gold fans—that loss actually began the 10-game winless streak that Crew SC managed to snap just four days ago in Massachusetts.
The first match between the two sides was a 2-1 home opener loss for Columbus, and Berhalter's team will try to avoid the season sweep tonight. Jim Curtin's Union enjoys the presence of USMNT member Alejandro Bedoya now, while this will be the first time center back Nicolai Naess squares off against Philly.
Keys to the Match
- Score early and frequently to suffocate the opposition: Despite its vastly better record and current standing, Philadelphia has actually allowed more goals than Columbus (40, as opposed to 38). On the other hand, the Union have been able to secure their wins by finding the back of the net a lot in high-scoring affairs. Crew SC has only won one match in which they concede the first goal. The Black & Gold have to engage relentlessly in their final third in order to have a shot at winning by playing with a lead.
- Don't allow dispossession in the midfield to develop into scoring chances: It seems self-explanatory and basic, Crew SC have allowed a small number of fundamental errors throughout the course of 90-minute spans to cost them dearly. C.J. Sapong and Chris Pontius are skilled at exploiting mismatches and gaps in defensive schemes, and having Bedoya matching up with Tony Tchani means the attack-minded duo could get some timely transitional feeds from their newest colleague if he is as good tonight as advertised. If the back line for Columbus is out of shape when these midfield voids open up, it could spell disaster quickly.
- Involve creativity in winger play: Finlay has looked far more efficient and confident since the return of Higuain anchoring things at the 10, and Meram has often been a terror for opposing defenses with his ability to self-direct sequences into scoring chances. This two-flanked attack has to continue in order for Crew SC to keep Philadelphia off-guard and unable to predict where and how to defend Berhalter's scheme.
How to Watch
Date/Time: August 24, 2016/7:30 p.m. EST
Venue: MAPFRE Stadium, Columbus, OH
Television: CW Columbus, TWC SportsChannel
Online: MLS Live
Radio: CD 102.5 (English), La Mega 103.1 (Spanish)
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