1. What kind of Crew side should we expect with all the international absences going on this week?
The good news is that head coach Gregg Berhalter has assembled a pretty deep team. Although nine players will be gone for Crew SC, there is depth at each position to provide cover.
The Black & Gold will be without both outside backs, but Harrison Afful just arrived recently so Berhalter knows what he has behind him. Waylon Francis has missed time this season with the national team already and Chris Klute has performed well. Mohammed Saeid started 15 games while Wil Trapp was out with concussion issues in the first half of the year. If Kristinn Steindorsson is healthy (dealing with a hamstring issue this week), he has been one of the first wingers off the bench this season. He's likely in line to replace Justin Meram/Cedrick Mabwati on the left side of midfield. Jack McInerney is the backup to Kei Kamara and he's proven he can score in this league.
2. Is McInereny ready to step up with Kamara out?
I think he's more than ready to get the start. Since joining Columbus from the Montreal Impact recently, he's discussed wanting to work his way into the lineup and get playing time. In limited minutes off the bench, he's already scored one goal.
The biggest thing for him will be chemistry with his teammates. Crew SC's game has everything to do with movement and players working off one another. McInerney and Kamara are rather different players and the team will have to adjust for that. The attackers have been putting in extra work to get to know each other on and off the field and we'll see the results on Sunday.
3. How do Crew fans feel about the final two months of the season here with this team?
I think fans are optimistic. This team is finally starting to hit its stride. It's not just Kamara and Finlay producing offensively right now. Tony Tchani is getting involved in the action, Federico Higuain is playing some great soccer, and the bench is beginning to produce.
This was around the time last year when Columbus began to get hot. Right now the Black & Gold have two losses in the last 13 games. If they pick up another victory on Sunday, I think that will be a lot of momentum going into the final stretch of the season.
Expectations at the beginning of the year were high around Columbus, but that was deterred a bit by up and down performances throughout the season. If the defense can stop allowing goals so frequently, this could be a scary team to face in the MLS Cup Playoffs.
Prediction: Ummmm, hard to say with all these players missing. Let's go 2-1 to the home side.
Hector Jimenez-Michael Parkhurst-Tyson Wahl-Chris Klute
Ethan Finlay-Tony Tchani-Mohammed Saeid-Kristinn Steindorsson