It’s time for Columbus Crew SC to pack its bags and hit the road to Annapolis, Maryland. The Black & Gold won’t participate in basic training but renew a storied rivalry with D.C. United for the second time in three weeks.
The last time these sides met, Crew SC earned a 3-1 victory in a match filled with storylines. Federico Higuain joined the 50-50 club with his 50th career assist and the Black & Gold received contributions on the score sheet from Milton Valenzuela, Ricardo Clark, and Pedro Santos. Valenzuela scored his first professional goal in the 20th minute after some chaotic moments in front of the net. After that goal, it was game on for the Black & Gold.
Since that miraculous afternoon at MAPFRE Stadium, Crew SC dropped its last two matches and fell from first place to fourth in the Eastern Conference. A trip to Annapolis to face a winless D.C. squad could be what the doctor ordered to prevent an early-season slump for the Black & Gold.
Not much has changed for United since its encounter with Crew SC on March 24th. The Black & Red found themselves on the wrong side of a 1-0 scoreline against Sporting Kansas City. Head coach Ben Olsen is determined to win against Crew SC, but is hesitant to call this match a “must win.”
“I wouldn’t classify anything as a must-win unless you’re in a situation down the stretch where you have to win to get into the playoffs or it’s a playoff game,” Olsen said in an interview with MLSSoccer.com. “I think it’s a silly term. However, do we want to win this game? Of course. We understand that we need a win.”
Even though some time has passed since their last meeting, the United head coach still feels hard done that things didn’t go his way in the last encounter and understands what a win would do for his club.
“We know them fairly well, and that loss still burns a bit because I thought we actually played pretty well and we felt like we were a little hard done,” Olsen said in the interview. “So hopefully that still stings for some of the players and we can fix that this weekend by getting another bite at them.”
D.C. United at a glance
Leading Scorer: Two players tied with 2 goals
Assists Leader: Three players tied with 1 assist
Crew SC unleashed a furious attack at D.C. in the first half, tallying three goals in 22 minutes. The Black & Gold demonstrated a varied attack that allowed them to dominate the possession battle and created quality scoring opportunities.
The offense shouldn’t get all the credit as Crew SC performed admirably on defense, limiting D.C. to a meager two shots on target. This match signified a coming out party for Lalas Abubakar and Valenzuela.
The young defenders have developed great chemistry during the start of the season and continued to play well for the next couple of matches. Now with Josh Williams settled into Abubakar’s role, it will be intriguing to see if the veteran’s presence lifts Valenzuela’s game to the next level.
The Crew SC backstop was noticeably absent due to an international call-up during the previous match against United. Backup goalkeeper Jon Kempin did an admirable job filling in, but some pundits feel the result could have been better had Steffen had been available for selection. Anticipate a more confident look from the Crew SC defense with the return of their leader, and a clean sheet isn’t out of the realm of possibility on Saturday night.
How Crew SC win
“If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.” The Back & Gold shouldn’t change their approach heading into this clash with United.
Crew SC proved unlucky in last week’s match against the Chicago Fire. Head coach Gregg Berhalter and his team overwhelmed the opposition with 21 shots, but couldn’t find the scoresheet. If the last match against the Black & Red was any indication, a heavy press will do the trick against an out of form D.C. squad.
Berhalter’s men must remain on guard against the attack of the Black & Red. United boasts a prolific attack and it’s only a matter of time until the goals come. Crew SC need to limit the opportunities for Luciano Acosta, Darren Mattocks and Yamil Asad in order to be successful on Saturday.
Expect this inaugural trip to Annapolis to be a successful one. This will reinvigorate Crew SC as they head home for two straight matches in front of their passionate fans at MAPFRE Stadium.