Columbus Crew SC is in the midst of something it hasn’t experienced since late March, a two-game winning streak. The acquisition of fresh faces such as midfielder Luis Diaz and goalkeeper Eloy Room lifted the Crew to consecutive victories against Eastern Conference opponents. After noted struggles throughout the spring and summer, it appears things may be finally clicking for head coach Caleb Porter and the Black & Gold.
Could a playoff run in 2019 still be on the table?
Columbus heads west for a date against an in-form San Jose Earthquakes squad. The Quakes have shot up the Western Conference standings, winning six of seven games and outscoring opponents 16 to 6.
San Jose can’t boast the world class talent of other MLS clubs but manage to play great team soccer under head coach Matias Almeyda. The 45 year old has his club buying in and turning the corner at the right time, with an MLS playoff race waiting in the wings.
Let’s take a look at what the Crew can expect during its trip to Avaya Stadium on Saturday evening.
San Jose at a glance:
Leading scorer: Chris Wondolowski (9)
Assists leader: Cristian Espinoza (9)
How they play
It’s likely that San Jose will like up in a 4-2-3-1 against Columbus on Saturday night. The hosts tend to do things differently as converted midfielder Tommy Thompson now lines up at the right back spot. He is tasked with getting forward and joining the attack. Thompson opts to settle in at the top right hand corner of the 18-yard box. This allows the converted midfielder to link up with Cristian Espinoza, Judson and Magnus Ericksson as the Quakes aim to break down the opposing defense.
San Jose won’t shy away from playing a direct brand of soccer, challenging opposing defenses with frequent shots from distance. The Earthquakes can also pose problems along the wings, creating scoring chances with low hit crosses into the penalty box.
Midfielder Vako arguably poses the biggest threat with his attacking crosses. The 26 year old makes a meal of opposing defenses, as he finds ways to hook up with forward Chris Wondolowski and Danny Hoesen for easy tap-ins.
The Earthquakes do a great job of taking away space and eliminating passing lanes in the defensive third, but the defense lacks an out and out ball-winning center back. This could be an area Columbus exploits as San Jose tries to clear secondary balls and rebounds from the penalty area.
Look for the Quakes to remain compact but struggle on set pieces and corner kicks. They will commit professional fouls and limit counter attacking opportunities from the Crew.
How the Crew win
Saturday’s matchup serves as a great litmus test for how good this “new look” Crew team can be. The Black & Gold need to remain persistent in their efforts to break down the Earthquakes defense and pounce on secondary balls.
San Jose’s set piece defending leaves much to be desired. Should Columbus exploit these faults, it’s not unrealistic to think the winning streak continues for another week.