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Pregame 20: Crew @ Rapids

August 1, 2009

Columbus looks to extend it’s undefeated streak to 6 by winning in Colorado. It won’t be easy as the Crew has not played well in Denver with only two wins in 14 games in the mile high city. The team has not played especially well away from Crew Stadium either, with a record of 1 win, 3 losses, and 5 ties.

If the team has not be playing well on the road and has never played well in Colorado, they will at least be bolstered by the return of three starters. Alejandro Moreno is at full fitness, joined by Robbie Rogers and Chad Marshall back from the Gold Cup. The team has been playing so well, that each may have to earn their starting place back.

Crew on Offense: Guillermo Barros Schelotto may still be out, but Moreno will look to get his first start since July 4th. Since that time, fill in starters Jason Garey and Steven Lenhart have combined to score five goals. Warzycha has a decision to make. The Bash Brothers are on a goal scoring role and Moreno’s form this year has been subpar, tallying only 3 goals. However, many coaches hate benching players who lost their spot due to injury. If I had to make a decision, I would probably keep Garey and Lenhart out there and bring Moreno back to full fitness slowly. There is no point in rushing him back to the lineup and risking reinjury.

The other decision is in midfield. The thin midfield of the past month is suddenly much deeper. Emmanuel Ekpo returned from suspension in the Toronto game to fill a super sub role. Adam Moffat is returning to full fitness. Duncan Oughton has had a couple good games in a row. Robbie Rogers returns to a team with plenty of competition and not a lot of open spots on the field.

The only two locks to start in the midfield is Gaven and Carroll, barring injury. Danny O’Rourke will start tonight, but it may be in midfield or on defense. Duncan Oughton plays a very intelligent passing game. That has unlocked the right side several times the past couple of games. Moffat is not 90 minutes fit and Ekpo looks well suited for the super sub role against a tired defense.

The biggest competition is between Rogers and Oughton and I wouldn’t be surprised that Duncan gets the start (that is a sentence I never expected to write). Warzycha likes the passing game that Oughton brings and being able to bring Robbie back into the side slowly is a another luxury that Warzycha has. On the other hand, Robbie has the speed to take advantage of the space at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. I won’t be surprised if one or the other starts, but I do expect to see Rogers reclaim the starting position soon, if not tonight.

Crew on Defense: He has returned. Chad Marshall had a pretty good July, just like the Crew. Now the defensive leader will get to stabilize a defense that was solid without him, but was showing signs of inexperience. Andy Iro has been up and down in his four games at the back and will now return to the bench. Eric Brunner has shown great composure and will once again pair with the MLS Defender of the year.

Colorado loves to play down the wings and fire balls into Conor Casey. The Crew have two options to counter this and they will probably use both. Frankie Hejduk is well suited to play defense by offense. His runs forward will keep Colorado from pushing the left wing up too high. The Crew will have to watch for a counterattack, but it’s a role Frankie is well suited for.

On the left side, Gino Padula has been the target of opposing teams lately. Gino can be beaten, but has been mostly solid. Keeping him tucked back a little farther than normal and using a mobile left winger, like Robbie Rogers, to shadow the opposing wings and break on a counter will ease some of the pressure Colorado is sure to bring down the flanks.

Final Thoughts: The Rapids are tough at home, only losing once this season. For the Crew to win, they will have to win the midfield. They had trouble with that against Toronto and will struggle in the rarified air of Denver. I do think the bench strength salvages something from the game.

Crew 2 – Rapids 2

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