Big hat tip to Patrick Murphy for taking the time today.
BDS: Columbus has struggled out of the gate so far this season, is there any cause for concern after three games?
MR: I would say the cause for concern is still fairly minimal. While the team hasn't yet looked like what fans expected after all 11 starters from MLS Cup returned, it is very early in the year. Gregg Berhalter keeps saying that the team is learning to play with a target on their back and that is taking some time to adjust to.
With all that said, the best performance of the year was the opening game at the Portland Timbers and that was still a 2-1 defeat. The most concerning thing is the flow of the attack, which has been so good over the last two years, just isn't there. It certainly isn't due to a lack of familiarity, as new additions have combined for eight minutes so far this year. It's certainly been a weird start and it's hard to put a finger on it, but with a week off fans have to hope the team was able to right the ship.
BDS: What new players have come into this team that fans are excited about this year?
MR: There are two players that excite fans by their signing. One is midfielder Emil Larsen who comes to Columbus from Danish side Odense Boldklub. Berhalter said in the preseason that he would push for time at all three of the attacking midfield positions, but has seen just three minutes so far this year coming off the bench against the Chicago Fire in the last match. He recently told me he prefers to play on the left wing while having the freedom to roam so Larsen should bring another dynamic to the attack once he gets settled and give the team another option.
The other is Ola Kamara. Yes, Crew SC has two Kamaras and they both play forward. The Norwegian is yet to play in a MLS game for the Black & Gold due to a nagging injury, but could be fully fit for this match. In limited action in the preseason, Kamara registered an assist after coming on as a substitute but had to leave the match short after that with the injury. He also played in a scrimmage against Notre Dame and looked good in that contest, but came out partway through the first half. He will give another option up top when healthy as a guy that likes to run in behind the defense.
BDS: What is the Crew's plan for handling FC Dallas' speed on the wings?
MR: That is a good question. So far this year, teams have parked the bus in front of the Black & Gold and looked to hit the team on the counterattack. This has been a good strategy as Columbus pushes so many men forward, it can be hard to recover.
Obviously the goal for Crew SC is to not give away possession cheaply. Berhalter wants his team's attacks to finish with the ball either going out of bounds or in the net, meaning the other team doesn't have the chance to spring the counter. The team has been poor on the ball at times and it's allowed the opponent to strike. With the speed Dallas possess out wide, this could be dangerous in behind the attacking wingbacks.
Will Columbus keep the outside defenders back a bit more in this game? I doubt it so we'll see how that plays out.
Projected lineup: Steve Clark; Harrison Afful-Michael Parkhust-Gaston Sauro-Waylon Francis; Ethan Finlay-Tony Tchani-Wil Trapp-Justin Meram; Federico Higuain; Kei Kamara