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Massive Playoff Predictions: Crew SC at D.C. United

Can the Black & Gold defy the odds and advance in the MLS Cup playoffs?

MLS: D.C. United at Columbus Crew SC Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

The 2018 MLS Cup playoffs are here! Columbus Crew SC secured its spot in the postseason on Major League Soccer’s Decision Day last Sunday and, thanks to a 3-2 win over Minnesota United, the Black & Gold finished fifth in the Eastern Conference. That means a road date with D.C. United in the Knockout Round on Thursday night.

It will be a daunting task for Columbus to begin the playoffs. United hasn’t lost a game since Aug. 29, going 7-0-3 to conclude the regular season. Meanwhile, Crew SC had just two wins over its final seven as the Black & Gold limped to the finish line.

Can Crew SC overcome the poor end to the regular season and get the result the team needs in at Audi Field on Thursday? Let’s see what our staff think.

Collin Johnson

D.C. United host a playoff game on the heels of a 10-match unbeaten streak on the back half of their heavily home-balanced schedule. Since moving into Audi Field, and signing Wayne Rooney, D.C. has run off one of the most impressive runs of form in MLS this season. Crew SC have obviously been slumping, losing to a historically bad Orlando City and squeaking out a win over an almost equally terrible Minnesota United. Every week we kept waiting for Columbus to break out of their rut and begin the late-season peak that has so often occurred under Gregg Berhalter. That crest never came and the Black & Gold continued to struggle down the stretch.

But, eventually United will lose at home. Why can’t Crew SC be the ones to do it? There is no better time than the playoffs for the theColumbus to break out of their funk.
Columbus Crew SC 2 D.C. United 1

Patrick Murphy

This is a tricky game for Crew SC the way I see it. Usually it’s Columbus coming into the postseason on a hot streak and the team no one wants to play, but that’s certainly not the case this year. Instead, the Black & Gold face one of the hottest teams in MLS to end the season and have to go to their place to do it. This is a very different D.C. team than Crew SC saw early in the year with the addition of Wayne Rooney and a new stadium.

The one thing we’ve seen over Gregg Berhalter’s tenure is his ability to get teams ready tactically and mentally to play in the postseason. The question is, can he do it again despite the slow finish to the year? I think this it’s likely the end of the run for the 2018 Black & Gold.
D.C. United 2 Columbus Crew SC 1

Guilherme Torres

The playoffs have arrived and Crew SC will have a tough matchup to start with in D.C. United. The Black & Gold’s opponents are one of the hottest teams in the league right now, having registered seven victories and three ties in their last 10 matches. It should be a tough situation for a Crew team that seemed hesitant in the last weeks of regular season.

Audi Field could also be a factor as while D.C. has played in its new stadium nine times over the last couple of months, it will be Crew SC’s first time there. I bet on a close game, potentially going Crew SC’s way after PKs.
Columbus Crew SC 1 D.C. United 1 (Crew SC through on penalty kicks)

Eliot McKinley

D.C. United is fourth in the league in points per game and third in goal differential per game since Wayne Rooney joined in July. While much of this can be attributed to a heavy home field advantage since the opening of Audi Field, the underlying numbers do not show D.C. as being an elite MLS team. United’s goal differential is almost a full goal more than is expected per game, trailing only Seattle in this measure, since July 14. This is not sustainable long term, but the MLS playoffs are not a long-term affair.

The Crew enter the playoffs having only won three of their last 10 games, including bad recent losses at the Montreal Impact and Orlando City. However, the Crew’s underlying numbers remain pretty strong, as I pointed out over at American Soccer Analysis. The Crew are third in the league in expected points, have scored almost 11 goals fewer than expected this season, and gave up the fewest expected goals against this season. However, these numbers have not translated into results.

Thus we have a matchup against teams on opposite ends of the spectrum. D.C. is greatly over performing their underlying stats, while Columbus is greatly under performing. While I hope that the Crew will be able to shut down Rooney and Luciano Acosta while finally finishing off their chances, I don’t think it is going to happen. Given United’s home field advantage, I see them sneaking past Columbus to advance to the next round of the playoffs.
D.C. United 2 Columbus Crew SC 1

Patrick Guldan

A lot of people thought the 2018 Columbus Crew SC team would hit another gear this year, but they never did. The offense struggled mightily and the team enters the playoffs with a -2 goal differential only by the strength of a very stout defense. They will have to hope that Gregg Berhalter can recapture this team’s Knockout Round magic and the defense carries them in the playoffs.

D.C. United found their footing when they moved into Audi Field, coinciding with the arrival Wayne Rooney. The Englishman has changed the dynamic of this team and they are terrorizing opposing defenses. The danger on Thursday is if the home team gets an early goal and Columbus has to chase the game. That would open them up to the counter attack. It’s also how I see the game going.
D.C. United 2 Columbus Crew SC 0

Ralph Schudel

This is the matchup that I wanted to avoid at all costs, but here we are. Columbus Crew SC head East to Audi Field to take on the surging Wayne Rooney and D.C. United.

The Black and Red are unbeaten in their previous 10 matches and look to be the dominant favorites. Truth be told, I’m not seeing a lot that excites me for this matchup from a Crew SC perspective. The Columbus defense looks leaky, and the attack looks unimaginative. If it weren’t for Gyasi Zardes, who knows if the Black & Gold would be playoff bound.

Unfortunately I think D.C. takes this matchup, but at least we have 2019 to look forward to.
D.C. United 2 Columbus Crew SC 1

Sam Fahmi

Well, it’s playoffs time. And while I’m not nearly as optimistic as last year about the Crew’s chances for hoisting the MLS Cup this year, I’m fairly ok with that. District of Columbia United is a VERY hot team ever since they hit the pitch at their new home of Audi Field. The Crew, have not been hot. Heck, they lost to a terrible Orlando City team, and ALMOST let a win slip away against and equally terrible Minnesota United. So, yeah, I don’t think we get far this year. I would love to be wrong. The team is staying in Columbus and will live to fight again.
D.C. United 2 Columbus Crew SC 0

Not a very optimistic bunch this week, are we? What do you think? Will Crew SC come through and surprise most of the staff? Let us know in the comment section below.