Pregame 16: United @ Crew
The Crew kick off the second half of the season with a nationally televised matchup with first place on the line. First place D.C. United comes to town just a point ahead of the Crew. Both teams are missing players with injuries and Gold Cup call-ups and will have to make do with makeshift lineups, but both teams will be looking make a statement and seize control of the conference.
Crew on Offense: The offense faces another shakeup. Robbie Rogers is with the US National Team and Alejandro Moreno looks to be coming back into the lineup after being kept out of last week’s game and playing in the Open Cup game on Tuesday. Last week’s super sub, Emmanuel Ekpo is primed to take over for the absent Rogers on the wing with Eddie Gaven on the other wing. Strong wing play will be very useful to spread the field and pull D.C. out of it’s shape.
With Gaven moving outside and Warzycha announcing that Iro will be playing in the back line, Danny O’Rourke is free to pair with Brian Carroll in central midfield. I am extremely interested to see how they transition from defense to offense. They had problems transitioning against New York’s poor midfield, United’s midfield will pose a much stiffer test. It will be interesting to see how the Crew handle the battle of the midfield.
Crew on Defense: The Crew defense has some good news and bad news. D.C. will be missing forwards Luciano Emilio and Jaime Moreno. However, the Crew will be missing stalwart defender Chad Marshall. Eric Brunner and Andy Iro are tasked to shut down the United forwards. The young duo will have plenty of veteran help on the flanks as Frankie Hejduk will make his second start after injury with Gino Padula on the other side of the defense.
While the Carroll/O’Rourke midfield pairing is not a big offensive threat; the two are a tremendous backbone on defense. New York was not able to work through the midfield last week. They have a chance to make the the back line’s job much easier. Keeping D.C. to the flanks will only play to the Crew’s height advantage. The Red Bulls were reduced to long shots and high balls into the box. These were easily cleared by the tall Crew back line.
Final Thoughts: This is big game for both teams. With first place on the line both teams will be looking to get three points. Columbus, playing at home has an 18 game win streak on the line. I like the Crew’s depth better than United’s. I see Columbus using it’s height advantage on the defensive and offensive end.
DC 1 – Crew 2