Columbus Crew SC return home on Saturday for a clash with Eastern Conference rivals D.C. United. The Black & Gold played its way to a scoreless draw against the Philadelphia Union last weekend in Chester, Pennsylvania.
The match was a stalemate as star goalkeepers Andre Blake and Zack Steffen held both opponents scoreless.
This week, the Black & Gold welcome United to MAPFRE Stadium. Head coach Ben Olsen and his squad travel to Central Ohio with higher aspirations this season. After a last place finish in Major League Soccer in 2017, the Black & Red made some adjustments and look forward to what’s to come in 2018.
Olsen brought in some fresh blood, players like forward Darren Mattocks, midfielder Yamil Asad and goaltender David Ousted join the fold in an effort to improve on last year’s struggles.
The season hasn’t begun in the manner in which D.C. hoped.
United have yet to win a game in 2018, but remain competitive in their fixtures. A potent attack lead by Mattocks, Luciano Acosta, and Asad seems poised to breakout at any moment.
Let’s take a look at what Crew SC can expect from the Black & Red on Saturday.
D.C. tied with the Colorado Rapids for last place in the league in goals scored in 2017 and the addition of Mattock from the Portland Timbers and Asad from Atlanta United were offseason indicators that Olsen does not want this to happen again.
Asad and Mattocks made their presence known, finding the scoresheet early in their United careers. The Black & Red haven’t clinched a win yet on the young season, but with players of this caliber performing at such a high clip, it’s only a matter of time.
Olsen prefers to run his team with pace, as Mattocks looks to run free and challenge the defense. If the backline loses track of the Jamaican, things can turn ugly as Mattocks doesn’t miss an opportunity to make the opposition pay.
Asad plays the game of soccer well, plain and simple.
The 23 year old possesses the perfect blend of talent and Soccer I.Q. that makes him lethal anytime he is on the ball. The Argentine is especially dangerous if he gets service into the penalty box on set pieces and can locate Mattocks or physically gifted players such as Nick DeLeon or Steve Birnbaum.
Ousted, a former Vancouver Whitecaps goalkeeper, comes to D.C. this year to take over for the departed Bill Hamid. The Danish international brings a wealth of experience and athleticism at the back and seems to have the job locked up, at least temporarily, as he fends off former Crew SC goalkeeper Steve Clark.
Ousted still makes the occasional spectacular save, but his defense often fails him with undisciplined mistakes, missing key slides or failing to step to an opponent, creating a quality scoring opportunity.
Crew SC can easily exploit this fault on Saturday.
How Crew SC win
As mentioned above, D.C. United have a streaky defense and appear to still be figuring things out at the back. The Black & Red often struggle with teams that play with tremendous width.
For example, Atlanta stretched D.C. out in Week 2 and exposed numerous passing channels as the defense couldn’t keep it’s correct shape. For Crew SC to be successful, it is imperative that Cristian Martinez and Pedro Santos plays significantly better than they did last weekend against the Union.
Service from the wings will be imperative to creating great scoring chances for the Black & Gold.
Lastly, there will be changes on the field this week as Wil Trapp and Zack Steffen will miss this game due to international call-ups with the U.S. Men’s National Team. It’s uncertain who will step in to fill the void, but they must act quickly to rally the team together.
How Crew SC react to replacing its two leaders could dictate how the game plays out on the pitch on Saturday evening.