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Tactical Lineups: Columbus Crew SC vs. Philadelphia Union

A second match against the Union — see what to expect on the field tactically.

MLS: Philadelphia Union at Columbus Crew SC Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

Hello and welcome to this week’s tactical preview of Columbus Crew SC vs. Philadelphia Union. The Black & Gold have a second matchup against the Union tonight at 7:30 PM ET. After winning the weekend’s fixture in a slow, 1-0 fight, Crew SC look to take the hammer to the home side as this intense fight for the playoff spots continues.

What we can expect tonight is a bit more fire power for Philadelphia while Columbus is still inhibited slightly. Added to the injury list for Crew SC in one Harrison Afful, as he partners Federico Higuain, neither traveling for this midweek match.

Due to the Gold Cup final tonight featuring the U.S. Men’s National Team against Jamaica, the Union is still without starting goalkeeper Andre Blake and Chris Pontius. Philly native John McCarthy starts in goal for the home side and Ilsinho and Roland Alberg look to pull the strings in midfield.

Tactical Projection

Tonight I believe we can expect a similar tactical setup to the one that Gregg Berhalter deployed in the previous match. If it worked once, why change it? Or so is the idea. But I expect Philly to be better equipped as this is a must-win tie for them at home.

Columbus, being without its star creator in Higuain is expected to once again deploy a 3-4-2-1 (3-4-3) tactical formation. This is likely due to the fact that without him in midfield, the team needs to diversify chance creation and utilizing this formation aides in just that.

3-4-2-1 for Crew SC looking to dominate the center channels
Nathaniel Marhefka

In the last match, which of course I keep turning to as a reference point, the possession was nearly level, and the pace rather slow. I still expect a passive game as Philadelphia’s defense does not allow a lot of chances. So Columbus took a fair number of longer shots while the Union struggled to get anything in front of net.

It may open up a bit more for Philadelphia at home. Having the likes of CJ Sapong and Roland Alberg back makes a huge difference for them as well. Add to the list the introduction of Oguchi Onyewu at center back and this Union team is a heck of a lot stronger than the one that featured in Columbus

Lineup Talk

For the most part it is the same guys that we saw just a few days ago. While some may be scratching their heads at the lack of change, this is a very important match for the team and Real Salt Lake on Saturday offers a better spot to rest a few of these guys.

The only change is Hector Jimenez who comes in for Harrison Afful at the right wingback position. Jimenez offers a bit more defensive stability and an overall “safer” approach. What he does lack is the dynamism attacking down the flank that Afful brings, but, this one being an away match, I am okay with that.

In the backline we have two rookies for a third match in a row. Lalas Abubakar and Alex Crognale have really impressed of late, particularly in the three-defender setup. Expect Crognale to hold down the center with his height with Lalas on the left and Jonathan Mensah on the right.

Nicolai Naess does not make the 18-man roster despite traveling. Currently I am unaware if this is a preference demanded by Berhalter or if his previous injury concerns are still an issue. Mohammed Abu takes his spot on the bench from the week previous and Waylon Francis also regains a spot in the 18.

In the attack it will be led by Ola Kamara who is supported and flanked by Justin Meram and Kekuta Manneh. Again, there was reason here to think that Ethan Finlay may have retaken his spot, but Manneh did really impress over the weekend. His strong performance came especially notable once he was switched to the left side in the second half.

Because of Manneh’s performance on the left, I do expect him to start there today with Meram taking an unusual role on the right-hand side of the pitch. If things go sour we may see Meram move back to the left, so keep an eye out for that.

Last match Ethan Finlay did not feature and instead Christian Martinez was brought on for Meram in the 75th minute. Don’t expect Manneh to play a full match again, rather it be Justin, but it will be interesting to see which winger takes his spot.

Expect a slow match and Crew SC to try and capitalize by controlling the center and throwing off Philadelphia through backside counters. The Union will try and counter and now that they have their star striker back, don’t write this one off as the same as Saturday.