After last week’s 1-0 win against FC Dallas at home, Columbus Crew SC goes back out on the road this Saturday to battle the Philadelphia Union. The Black & Gold hope to maintain the team’s undefeated start to 2019 against a Union side that is yet to win a game this season in Major League Soccer.
What does our staff think of this game? Let’s take a look.
This is a tricky one to call, as both teams are missing players due to international call ups and the Union have a red card suspension. The Crew’s central midfield will be the most questionable, given that Wil Trapp is on international duty and Artur is a bit banged up. With Hector Jimenez likely coming in for Waylon Francis, and MLS vet, Joe Bendik stepping in between the pipes for Zack Steffen, I do not anticipate much of a drop in play with the defensive unit. Bendik is much more serviceable, especially in spot duty, than Crew fans want to give him credit for.
As for the attackers, I am hoping this is the week we get to see JJ Williams unleashed. I am curious to see what difference he can make for the Black & Gold in regular season action. With Federico Higuain, Pedro Santos and Robinho all suiting up, and either Williams or Patrick Mullins taking the striker role, I think we will see a pretty formidable attack. Philly has too many deficiencies when they have a full squad, let alone now with multiple call ups and suspension.
Columbus Crew 2 Philadelphia Union 0
The Union and Crew are on opposite trajectories to start the season. Philadelphia has earned one point from their first three matches while Columbus has seven of nine possible points. The Union have struggled to create from the run of play with only one of their two goals in the season coming from open play. They will be heavily affected by injuries and absences for this match. The most notable being the suspension El Tri and former Frankfurt attacker Marco Fabian from a red card suspension against Sporting KC.
Columbus is also missing five key players but unlike Philadelphia have the squad depth to slot in MLS veterans such as Joe Bendik, Ricardo Clark and Hector Jimenez into three of those slots. The other two spots left vacant by the absences of Justin Meram and Gyasi Zardes also have capable depth with Robinho likely filling in for Meram and JJ Williams or Patrick Mullins slotting in for Zardes.
Columbus Crew SC 2 Philadelphia Union 0
Columbus is down multiple key players, so the lineup will look different. Philadelphia will lose Marco Fabian due to suspension so there goes a key component in the Union’s midfield. Granted Columbus is still unbeaten in the Caleb Porter era and anything can happen in Philadelphia. Last match, the Crew was comfortable giving FC Dallas possession as much as they had, but it could be different this match.
As far as score wise, I’m expecting a Columbus win but it’s a gut feeling I’m having that Philadelphia will hand the Black & Gold their first loss of the season.
Philadelphia Union 2 Columbus Crew SC 0
This could be ugly for the Union. They are without two vital players (Corey Burke and Andre Blake) due to the international break. Philadelphia attempted to deploy a new attacking system to begin the season but quickly scrapped those plans when it didn’t yield positive results.
Due to injuries and international call-ups, the roster is razor thin. It will be intriguing to see how Union head coach Jim Curtin attacks this problem. Columbus will be missing five players (Gyasi Zardes, Wil Trapp, Justin Meram, Waylon Francis) to international call-ups and Zack Steffen due to a minor knee injury. I expect the composure and tactical awareness from Caleb Porter to pay dividends and let Columbus continue its unbeaten streak.
Columbus Crew 2 Philadelphia Union 0
On paper, this should be a win for the Crew. Despite being a road game, both the Black & Gold and the Union are missing players for various reasons. The difference in the two teams is the depth. Columbus should be able to handle missing Gyasi Zardes, Wil Trapp, Zack Steffen, Waylon Francis and Justin Meram, as well as possibly Artur. Philadelphia will have a harder time replacing their missing players.
Even so, I don’t have a good feeling about this one. I feel like at some point, the Crew are going have a letdown game defensively and the lack of offense is going to be a problem. In a game without the team’s goalkeeper, defender and forward, it seems like this could be the contest.
Philadelphia Union 2 Columbus Crew SC 1
Three matches into the season and the Crew have mostly trotted out the same lineup each week. With multiple players out due to international duty or injury, this will be the first real test of Columbus’ depth. The Union’s depth will also be tested with offseason acquisition Marco Fabian missing the match due to a red card suspension. The only real question is whether Caleb Porter will send out a close as possible to full strength lineup in hopes that the team could steal a draw, or whether he uses this match as an opportunity to provide a rest to his veteran players. Either way, I think it’s likely that the Black & Gold drop their first game of the season this weekend.
Philadelphia Union 1 Columbus Crew SC 0
The Crew has scored four goals and conceded just one while the Union has scored just two goals and conceded six. The Black & Gold (seven points) and Philadelphia (one point) are clearly moving in opposite directions thus far this season.
Despite missing key players due to international call-ups, a minor knee injury to Zack Steffen and playing on the road, Columbus has enough talent to be a formidable force against a struggling opponent. As long as the Crew doesn’t play down to Philly and focuses on establishing dynamic possession with purpose through Federico Higuain and Pedro Santos, coupled with giving valuable reps to the speedy and attack-minded winger Robinho, the original Black & Gold in MLS will earn three points on the road this Saturday night.
Columbus Crew SC 1 Philadelphia Union 0
This week will be a test of depth for both Philadelphia and Columbus. The Union are missing three starters due to international duty, while the Crew will be missing four. Both teams will be deploying backup keepers as Zack Steffen is expected to be out with a minor injury while Philly’s Andre Blake is on international duty. The shots on goal will be minimal, but goals will be scored. In the end Columbus will steal a point from a Philly team that is still trying to find its feet this season.
Columbus Crew SC 1 Philadelphia Union 1
This is the Crew’s biggest test of the season. Fans are going to see the depth of their team for the first time this season with the absence of Zack Steffen (injury), Wil Trapp, Gyasi Zardes, Waylon Francis and Justin Meram (international duty). I think the team is well prepared and will be able to handle this new challenge. Philadelphia has not been producing on offense, while the Crew’s defense has been a topic of positive conversation. Columbus should be able to add to their two-game win streak Saturday if their defense can stay as strong as they have been without Francis and Steffen.
Columbus Crew 1 Philadelphia Union 0
This game will be a good test for the Crew’s depth as head coach Caleb Porter won’t have as many as five players available. Still, he should have enough pieces to put together a solid lineup and potentially get a good road result in Philadelphia.
The Union is at the bottom of the conference and they need a positive result badly, but I think Columbus returns home with yet another point.
Columbus Crew 1 Philadelphia Union 1
What do you think will happen Saturday in Philadelphia? Let us know your score prediction in the comment section down below.