It’s hard to believe but the 2018 Major League Soccer season is drawing to a close. Just two home games remain for Columbus Crew SC, and Saturday’s match has huge playoff implications. The Black & Gold return to the pitch following 2-1 victory over the Colorado Rapids last weekend at MAPFRE Stadium.
The Union return to Columbus for the first time since May 9, and aren’t feeling particularly good following a poor showing in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Final. Philadelphia lost 3-0 Houston Dynamo side on Wednesday night. Despite the result, head coach Jim Curtin and his men appear primed for a clash with Crew SC that could carry serious weight heading into the playoffs.
Union at a glance
Leading Scorer: Two players tied with eight goals (Cory Burke and Fafa Picault)
Assists Leader: Borek Dockel (15)
The last time they met
These teams last met on May 9 in Columbus. Crew SC head coach Gregg Berhalter used a lineup with heavy rotation that included an influx of youth. Those players included the likes of Luis Argudo, Niko Hansen and Cristian Martinez. With that lineup, the Black & Gold claimed a hard fought 1-0 victory. The shutout marked the first time Crew SC earned a clean sheet at home in 2018.
The Union prefer a 4-2-3-1 formation when attacking up the field. Philadelphia likes to attack in a fluid motion, limiting its holdup play. Midfielder David Accam remains a threat on the left wing and warrants the attention of the Crew SC defense. His counterpart on the right side is Fabian Herbers, and he will be a focus of the Black & Gold as well. Both wingers can easily turn the tide in favor of the Union.
Auston Trusty and Jack Elliott anchor the backline for the Union. The defenders are commissioned with the responsibility of protecting goalkeeper Andre Blake. Philadelphia prefers to pinch in when on defense and force the opposition to attack wide. This can make their opponents a bit uncomfortable at times as the Union doesn’t allow the opposition to pass into space.
Should the defense lapse, Blake is available to clean up the mess. The 27-year-old remains one of the premier goalkeepers in Major League Soccer and could match Zack Steffen save for save on Saturday night.
How Crew SC win
The Black & Gold need to hit on the counter and do it with pace. The Union thrive when they are able to commit numbers back on defense and snuff out any serious attack. Crew SC should look to play the ball long and down the wings, forcing the outside backs into difficult decisions and could generate quality scoring chances.
Columbus must neutralize the Union attack at all costs. It sounds cliché but Philadelphia thrives off of momentum. When they score a goal, belief increases throughout the team and that could pose danger to Crew SC. The Black & Gold need to score early to crush the Union’s spirit and keep them firmly locked into fifth place in the Eastern Conference standings.