Another match, another chance for the Columbus Crew to get back on the winning train. After four tough losses, the Black & Gold will travel to New Jersey to take on the New York Red Bulls on Wednesday evening.
The same themes have pervaded the last several matches: the lack of depth, defensive lapses, missed offensive opportunities and some downright uninspired play. The depth issue will not improve markedly with several key players still out for an extended time, but the Crew will need to sew up the leaks in the back and take more advantage of offensive opportunities if they are going to stay in the playoff conversation.
While Columbus is still without some key pieces, a more consistent lineup is available now that Gyasi Zardes has returned from international duty. Hopefully, consistency in the lineup will start to lead to some more cohesive play.
The Black & Gold desperately missed their starting striker while the U.S. international was out winning the Gold Cup. Zardes was a welcome spark as the Crew created several quality chances against Atlanta, but unfortunately the team was unable to finish these chances for actual goals. The same issue rang true against the Chicago Fire last weekend when Columbus did not create enough to put Zardes in good positions to score.
In the back, some key injuries have not helped the Black & Gold. With some question marks at fullback and at a consistent partner for Jonathan Mensah, the backline has been rather leaky as of late. Vito Wormgoor returned to the game day 18-man roster Sunday and the team had an improved defensive performance against the Fire. At fullback, Milton Valenzuela remains out with an injury, so head coach Caleb Porter will have to continue to be creative and the likes of Pedro Santos, Harrison Afful, Saad Abdul-Salaam and Waylon Francis will need to step up consistently.
The Crew’s offensive struggles have become somewhat of a trend. Porter may look for some more inventive lineups to help kickstart the offense.
If Columbus has any chance at defending the team’s MLS Cup title, this group will need to turn things around now. At 24 points, the Black & Gold find themselves on the outside looking into the playoff picture. New York sits just three points behind the Crew, but is coming off the team’s own winless skid. With the Seattle Sounders coming to town this weekend, the Red Bulls definitely present a more viable option to grab points, even on the road.
Who would you, the supporters, put out against RBNY? Vote below and we will publish the results, plus a prediction from one of our Massive Report writers before the match on Wednesday.