Pregame: RSL @ Crew
The Crew season hangs on tongiht’s game against Real Salt Lake. The story is well known by now. After losing game one, the mordibund offense has to start scoring goals. The 2009 Supporters Sheild winners are in danger of crashing out of the playoffs early.
It does help that the team is returning to Crew Stadium where the team has scored 10 more goals than they have given up. Added to the fact that Real Salt Lake has been horrible on the road, the Crew are in a pretty good position to advance.
Crew on Offense: Here is the biggest question, how does the team score goals? They haven’t scored one in the league since October 10th, that’s three straight games. Making it more difficult, Salt Lake will probably try to play defensivly and bunker. The Crew have struggled to break down compact teams. The Crew is best at counterattacking.
The Crew will have their big game maestro back on the field. Guille is again expected to carry the team on his back even though he has been woefully out of form the 2nd half of the year. When he is on, his vision can open up almost any defense. His deadball skills can also turn the game. One great free kick that finds the head of Chad Marshall can equalize the series and open up the game.
Barring a corner or free kick that goes in, the team will have to find some offense from the run of play. The strikers on this team are workers rather than classical finishers. The midfield will have to step up and provide some offensive pressure. Many times this has come from the wings, but tonight the team will have to find offense from the central midfield.
The defensive central midfield does not support the offense. Eddie Gaven is an obvious choice to provide the springboard out of midfield, but I would expect to see a little more defensive posture. Brian Carroll is a lock in the defensive mid spot. Danny O’Rourke has played in the central midfield spot lately, but I would like to see Adam Moffat as a linking player with some offensive flair.
Regardless of the lineup, I expect to see early changes if the Crew are still down at halftime. Warzycha is not one to patiently wait for a goal. He will try to put the players on the field to create one.
Crew on Defense: If the offense has been a question, the defense has been a certainty. Even without Marshall, the Crew defense has matched up against the best offenses in the league and shut down teams. With the current offensive woes, the defense will have to be even better and pitch a shutout.
To keep the team in the game, Columbus will have to shut down the counterattacking speed that Real Salt Lake uses to great effect. With the offense trying to find a tying goal, Salt Lake can sit back and counter using the speed of Movsysian and Findley. The speed of Danny O’Rourke may be the better option to match the pace that Salt Lake is going to use.
Final Thought: An early goal will change the complextion of the game. If Real Salt Lake scores, then things get a whole lot tougher. If the Crew scores, then they might start to break open the game and the offense may start to roll and avoid overtime and a possible penalty shootout.
RSL 0 – Crew 2