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Pregame: Crew @ Cruz Azul

August 26, 2009

The Crew face the impossible dream, a win in Mexico. No team from the U.S. has won on American soil though the Red Bulls got a forfeit in 2001. If any team can do it thought, it is the yellow football team from Columbus. This team has a mental toughness since the beginning of last season that I have not seen in MLS that often.

True, the team hasn’t suffered too much adversity, but they did suffer through the loss of Schelotto both this year and last. They did not lose that confidence even when they had the worst start for a defending MLS champ ever. This self belief will certainly help as the Crew are tested more than they have in a long time.

Crew on Offense: Warzycha has decisions to make on how to play against a stronger opponent on the road. I expect to see a defensive lineup with a speedy counterattack. Moreno will serve as the tip of the spear and hold up the ball and allow Schelotto, Rogers, and Ekpo to break out. Schelotto’s passing is pinpoint and it helps there will be speed on the wings to support him.

Given the defensive shell the Crew will probably be in; the other key is to utilize set pieces to score. Schelotto is brilliant at corners and free kicks. He has plenty of targets to pick out and steal a goal. An early goal would be great on the road. It would alleviate the pressure sure to build on the defense.

Crew on Defense: I expect to see the Crew line up in a defensive alignment with Hejduk returning from injury, joining the solid backline of Marshall, Brunner, and Padula. I do wonder if the outside backs will hold back and watch for the counter. That would make Padula and Hejduk jobs easier as they will have to watch out for a skilled offensive team.

I also expect to see a defensive midfield combo of Brian Carroll and Danny O’Rourke. Having these two start will signal that the Crew are trying to choke Cruz Azul’s midfield possession and rely on a countering strategy.

Final Thoughts: They are facing the toughest opposition in a long time. It will be a struggle to even pull out a tie. My heart says a tie, but I see Cruz Azul finding a way to open up the game and getting the win.

Crew 1 – Cruz Azul 2

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