Pregame 22: FC Dallas @ Crew
The Crew are on a roll. They have won 4 straight and haven’t lost in 7 games. The last loss was to the same FC Dallas team that comes to Crew Stadium tonight. Dallas and former Crew striker Jeff Cunningham are nearly as hot as Columbus. They have 4 wins and a tie in their last 7 games. What looked to be one of the easier games of the season, a home game against Dallas, is now shaping up to be a a real challenge to the Crew’s streak.
Crew on Offense: Columbus has been finding ways to score goals in the absence of Guillermo Barros Schelotto. Steven Lenhart and Jason Garey have chipped in goals. Last year’s heroes, Robbie Rogers and Alejandro Moreno, have returned to form. Even Chad Marshall scored off of a free kick. Now Guille returns to the lineup with a host of weapons to feed and the offense will have to change again to suite the strengths of the magnificent Argentinean.
Schelotto may not be able to go a full 90 minutes which forces Warzycha to make a decision on whether he starts or comes off the bench. Will it be two strikers or a return to the high striker with Guille sitting behind. I expect to see two strikers, Moreno and Lenhart playing high with Schelotto ready to come in early if the Crew need a goal or else get about 20 minutes tonight and then be ready for more time on Tuesday then having a week to rest since the Crew are off the following weekend.
The Crew also will have their secret offensive weapon at the ready. Brian Carroll is suspended with his 5th yellow card so Adam Moffat is ready to return to the lineup. He does add bite to the lineup, but he is a very intelligent offensive player. Having offensive pressure coming from the central midfield as well as a surging Robbie Rogers and a fast and rested Emmanuel Ekpo on the bench will only add to FC Dallas’ worries.
Crew on Defense: The defense that had been leaking goals is suddenly coalescing into a tremendous force. Marshall is in outstanding form once again and his defensive partner Eric Brunner is as steady as a young defender can be. Frankie Hejduk is probably ready to return to the lineup, but Jed Zayner has played extremely in his absence. Gino Padula is not the quickest, but his experience and technical skill rarely fail him.
It will be interesting to see the new midfield paring. Danny O’Rourke has played well as the more advanced central midfielder, but now will be the sole defensive midfielder. Adam Moffat will be charged with keeping hold of the Crew midfield in addition to his offensive role. It will be important to choke the Dallas midfield and close off the supply to the very hot Cunningham.
Final Thoughts: I wonder if the Crew will be looking past this game and to Tuesday night’s Champions League game. I think the return or Hejduk, Schelotto, and Moffat’s insertion into the starting lineup will keep the Crew focused on the game at hand. Don’t underestimate a demanding but supportive home crowd to urge the team on as well.
FC Dallas 1 – Crew 2