It seems like ages, but Columbus Crew SC return home Saturday evening for a match against the Houston Dynamo. The Black & Gold should be fresh following a bye week, but head coach Gregg Berhalter might be a little tired. The boss has been busy brokering deals for his club during the secondary transfer window.
Crew SC welcomed back veteran midfielder Justin Meram as he returned from a brief move to Orlando City. The Black & Gold boss wasn’t done as he reportedly rejected a $1.25 million offer from English Championship side Blackburn Rovers for the services of captain Wil Trapp. With the transfer window closing on Thursday, it appears unlikely that Berhalter will complete any further moves going forward. It will be intriguing to see if Meram factors in the game day lineup after falling out of favor with Orlando.
It hasn’t been an easy go of things for the Dynamo in Major League Soccer the past couple of weeks with the Texas based club earning just one point in four matches. It’s not quite time to hit the panic button, but a few more decisive results could trigger alarms down in the Lonestar state.
Dynamo at a glance
Leading Scorer: Mauro Manotas (11)
Assists Leader: Romell Quioto (8)
Things did not go well for the Dynamo in its previous game on Aug. 4th against Sporting Kansas City. Head official Chris Penso distributed 10 cards to Houston, that’s the most in the club’s 13-year history. In addition to the massive amount of yellow cards, Penso dismissed three Houston players and manager Wilmer Cabrera.
The severity of the ejections ranged from “violent conduct” to “serious foul.” The lone exception was Cabrera who was awarded an early shower for his conduct in the tunnel at halftime. As a result of his actions, Cabrera and his players are suspended from Saturday’s match against Crew SC.
Houston will be without the services of defender Alejandro Fuenmayor, midfielder Darwin Ceren or forward Alberth Elis as they too will serve their suspensions. This leaves the Western Conference foes ripe for the picking as Crew SC look to claim a third straight victory at home and prevent the Dynamo from claiming its first win at MAPFRE Stadium since June 2007.
It’s been one of the more interesting acquisitions in recent Crew SC history. Justin Meram returns following a brief stint in Orlando. The winger requested a trade in January and was granted the move to the Lions. Unfortunately for him, the time in Florida wasn’t memorable. Dealing with chaos and disarray within the organization, he quickly fell out of favor with new head coach James O’Connor and the new coaching staff.
It remains to be seen if Meram will feature in the game day line up on Saturday, but many seem happy with the return of good ol’ J9.
How Crew SC win
The Black & Gold look to potentially run away with this match. Houston have yet to demonstrate effective defending on through balls and look especially vulnerable on the counter attack. Expect Berhalter to instruct the wingers to attempt to release Gyasi Zardes into the final third of the pitch with creative attacking passes.
The forward shouldn’t have any problem taking on the Dynamo defense and generating scoring chances for the Black & Gold. Look for a heavy presence on the wings as well as Houston doesn’t fare well with clearing crosses from the penalty area. Harrison Afful and Milton Valenzuela will be busy men Saturday night as they will drive the offense from the wings.
Defensively Crew SC must remain guarded against long ball opportunities. Given the suspension to Elis, it will be intriguing to see how the Dynamo adapt to not having its star forward available for selection. Should the Black & Gold remain poised and in control on Saturday, it’s not unrealistic to think three points are a certainty on Saturday.