If you were one of the few to come out to MAPFRE Stadium last weekend, chances are you enjoyed witnessing Columbus Crew SC beat down D.C. United. The 3-1 victory by Crew SC moves the club back into a tie with New York City FC atop the Major League Soccer standings.
The win also extended the Black & Gold’s unbeaten streak to 14 games. The last loss for Crew SC in the regular season came in August 2017 against the San Jose Earthquakes. The fast start this season marks strongest start since Black & Gold started 6-0-2 in 2010.
Like Crew SC, the Vancouver Whitecaps (2-1-1) are out of the blocks quickly in 2018.
The Whitecaps are led by a familiar face in striker Kei Kamara, who had some controversial comments earlier this week. Patrick Murphy took a moment to dissect what the striker actually said.
This game offers a unique subplot when examining the coaching careers of Crew SC’s head coach Gregg Berhalter and Vancouver boss Carl Robinson. Both men ended their playing careers in 2011 and took their respective coaching positions in MLS in 2014.
Both clubs are towards the top in the league since their respective coaches took over. Since 2014, The Black & Gold has the fifth highest point total in the league and the Caps have the seventh highest.
Here is a side-by-side perspective of the careers of Carl Robinson and Gregg Berhalter.
It’s incredible that four points is the difference between both clubs. The Whitecaps have not lost to Crew SC since Robinson has been at the helm, and coincidentally, the team’s only wins against the Black & Gold came in Columbus.
Who has the upper hand on Saturday? Let’s get to know the Whitecaps a little bit better.
Whitecaps at a glance:
Leading Scorer: Kei Kamara (2)
Assists Leader: Four players tied with 1 assist
Set pieces and attacking movement
One of the main strengths of Vancouver comes from the team’s ability on set pieces. Midfielder Cristian Techera mainly handles the free kick duties and does so masterfully. The 25-year-old Uruguayan is lethal from distance and possesses an innate ability to generate a quality scoring opportunity from anywhere on the field.
The Whitecaps like to invite pressure and force the defense to close down, all the while attackers create space by making diagonal runs across the center of the park. The attackers then utilize this newly created space to run free and generate scoring opportunities.
Here is an example:
Life of Kei
It seems like an inevitable storyline anytime Kamara and his MLS team at the time come to Columbus, but the fact of the matter is, things didn’t end well for the former Crew SC striker.
Fans recall the infamous penalty kick incident between Federico Higuain and Kamara in 2016 that saw the striker’s time in Central Ohio come to an abrupt end. Since that incident, Kamara claims to not have ill will towards the club and Berhalter, but continues to take jabs at Crew SC on social media.
This came after Justin Meram was traded to Orlando City earlier this year.
While Kamara is good on social media, he also presents a threat on the field. Black & Gold fans remember fondly his time in Columbus as he still possesses dynamic abilities through the air.
It is worth mentioning that the striker remains prolific on set pieces and must be properly marked. Failure to properly track Kamara could lead to Zack Steffen fishing the ball out of his own net.
The Whitecaps defense is a bit Jekyll and Hyde early in 2018. Robinson and his team typically begin the game playing a compact style on defense, forcing shots from the outside and not allowing the opposition to get quality chances. The Caps do struggle when playing against a team with pace and allow themselves to get gassed as the match progresses.
Look for Vancouver to stick with the recipe that worked for them in matches prior. The Whitecaps will sit back and absorb pressure from Crew SC. Expect quick counter attacks from the Caps as the team feeds both midfielders on the wings in an effort to advance the ball quickly up the field.
How Crew SC win
Crew SC look to extend their record to a fifth straight unbeaten match in 2018, and 15 matches unbeaten in the regular season. For Columbus to extend this streak, the Black & Gold need to be at their best against the Whitecaps. Defender Kendall Waston figures to be back in the loop afternoon international duty and could be a real challenge for Gyasi Zardes.
Columbus needs to remain patient in the attacking third of the pitch and wait out the Caps’ defense. The Vancouver defense while stout, is solvable as the match wears on.
The Black & Gold will need a great defensive performance from the back line on Saturday afternoon. Crew SC are very familiar with Kamara and his abilities in the air and on the ground. It will take consistent effort for all 90 minutes to insure the Vancouver scorer doesn’t find the back of the net. If the Black & Gold execute and stick to the system, there is no reason why the unbeaten streak doesn’t continue on.