For the second consecutive Saturday, Columbus Crew SC heads out on the road to face a Western Conference opponent. This time, the Black & Gold travel even farther west, to the coast, where the side will take on the San Jose Earthquakes.
For both teams, this is an important match. Crew SC sits just inside the playoff picture in the Eastern Conference, two points ahead of Orlando City SC who has a game in hand. The Earthquakes are just below the playoff line in the West, one point behind the Vancouver Whitecaps, who have two games in hand.
Last week, Columbus managed only its second tie of the season, drawing 2-2 with Real Salt Lake to close out a stretch of three games in eight days. San Jose meanwhile earned a 1-0 win over the Colorado Rapids to end a two-match slide that saw the Earthquakes outscored 8-1.
San Jose puts its 6-1-4 record at Avaya Stadium this season on the line against a Black & Gold side that is third in the league in wins away from home.
Can Gregg Berhalter’s side get a result on the road for the second consecutive week, or will the Earthquakes pull a little bit closer to the team’s postseason goal. Let’s see what our staff thinks.
San Jose has looked better when they have switched to Chris Leitch's alternative 3-5-2, and I expect the team to stay in that shape against Columbus. The Earthquakes have struggled this season, no doubt, losing its manager, down 10 on goal differential, but are somehow still sit seventh in the West.
The diamond midfield experiment was a fail, but this tactic has lent some flexibility and unleashed Nick Lima and Shea Salinas completely on the wings. San Jose’s game seems to now be defensive stability while figuring out the offense. I expect Gregg Berhalter to try and set his team up to dominate the wide spaces and play puppeteer with the Quakes' wing backs. Crew SC likes this type of game -- in fact, they excel in it. I expect a low score, and a lot of defensive play.
Columbus Crew SC 1 San Jose Earthquakes 0
You just never know with this team. I expected Crew SC to get smashed by RSL, but instead the group gutted out a draw. I'd love to think something similar will happen here, but I just can't bring myself to have that kind of faith in this team on the road.
San Jose Earthquakes 2 Columbus Crew SC 1
After only the second draw on the season, Crew SC face a Western Conference opponent that is also fighting for a playoff spot. Marco Urena returned for San Jose, from Gold Cup duty, in the last match against Colorado and should help solidify the Earthquake's two-striker formation. With Federico Higuain unlikely to see the field, Columbus will probably continue with it's 3-4-3 lineup.
If the Black & Gold can keep San Jose from grabbing a lead, they should be able to make it out of Silicon Valley with at least one point.
Columbus Crew SC 2 San Jose Earthquakes 1
Both of these sides have gone to a three-man backline of late to try and help out a struggling defense. For both its been a mixed bag of results.
What has been an issue with the switch for either side is the offense. Crew SC can’t figure out a way to get the flow back that the 4-4-1-1 provided, especially without playmaker Federico Higuain, and the Earthquakes just lack the necessary firepower up front to scare teams.
San Jose is good at home and Columbus has been less than stellar on the road. With that said, this team overcame a demoralizing defeat and drew with Salt Lake last week away from home, despite being undermanned.
I said over the first half of the season that this Black & Gold side needed more draws and I think we see another one here. Also, don’t expect this game to be easy on the eyes.
Columbus Crew SC 1 San Jose Earthquakes 1
I fully expect Columbus to have every shot to win this. Whether it does or not is another question. San Jose typically plays in close games, but it also has a lot of success at home. This isn't the same old boring Earthquakes team, and while they are flawed, I expect they'll attack pretty aggressively and we may see Crew SC lose the possession battle yet again.
It leads me to believe that we may see some goals in this game, with both teams able to get in behind and find some chances. (Get ready for a scoreless draw now) I don't see anyway Columbus gets a win on the road here, though I think a draw could be reasonable.
Columbus Crew SC 2 San Jose Earthquakes 2
So there you have it. Two wins, two ties and one loss predicted from our staff.
But what about you? How do you see this one playing out in San Jose? Let us know in the comment section below.