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Pregame 24: Dynamo @ Crew

September 13, 2009

The Crew return after a two week break. It gave the team time to rest weary legs. Most of the team had a week’s vacation; minus a few on international duty. The break could not have come at a better time, the most brutal stretch of the season is about to start. The league leaders Houston Dynamo come to town with the lead for the Supporters Shield on the line. Both teams can score goals and defend well. Each has veteran leaders and emerging young players. This evening’s matchup promises to be a tight game.

Crew on Offense: The team is fully healthy and has a lot of options on offense. How the Crew lines up will depend on if Schelotto gets the start, as I expect. With the Argentine in the lineup, there is room for another forward to work off of him. Moreno was one of the few players busy during the break, which suggests that one of the many other forwards may get a look. Steven Lenhart has continued to improve throughout the year and has been Warzycha’s preferred pick to fill in. Other options include new signing Emilio Renteria who hasn’t played in game in months and Jason Garey who hasn’t impressed lately.

Columbus also has a full compliment in the midfield. Recently Moffat, O’Rourke, and Carroll have alternated in the midfield depending on the opponent and health. Moffat is a true two way midfielder and Carroll and O’Rourke are the more defensive minded options. Again, Warzycha’s picks will provide insight into the way the Crew play. Moffat’s inclusion will signal a desire to possess and build rather than a more of a defensive shell and counterattacking game.

I also think the Crew will be able to stretch the wide defense of Houston. Ekpo, Gaven, and Rogers can attack space and spread the ball wide. Pulling Houston outside will free up the forwards and central midfield to push in the box and clean up and mistakes from the Houston defense. If the wide players break inside, then Padula and Hejduk can make the dangerous overlapping runs.

Crew on Defense: With everybody healthy Warzycha has options on the backline. Marshall has been a towering presence on the backline with Brunner. They are joined by first teamers Padula and Hejduk outside. This is as solid a defense as there is in the league. Each are good one on one defenders who can add to the offense with their passing and in the case of Marshall and Brunner, with their heads. This is a defense that can shut down any offense, even one that stars Brian Ching and Stuart Holden.

I do have some growing concerns about the fitness of the backline. Marshall has played a lot of games recently, Hejduk has picked up injuries, Padula is into his thirties, and Brunner has looked like he is hitting the rookie wall as of late. It will be very important that the backups are ready to fill in if needed. Zayner has been a revelation out wide and Iro has been waiting patiently for his shot. Each will probably get in a game in the next couple weeks.

Final Thoughts: After two straight losses in all competitions, the Crew have a great opportunity to put a little distance over Chicago who tied this week and Houston in the race for the best record in the league. Columbus has good matchups all over the field. While Houston is very good; the Crew is deep and getting healthy at the right time. The fresh legs should help as Houston has been busy over the last couple weeks.

Houston 0 – Crew 2

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