Just like we like to do before each game, we bring in a fellow blogger to highlight the upcoming game. Today we’re happy to bring in Columbus Crew SC blogger Pat Murphy from Massive Report to preview tomorrow’s game.
BDS: Both teams enter this game on different paths with FCD's current slump and the Crew's three-game unbeaten run. What are some keys for the Crew to extend their streak?
MR: It starts with managing this three games in eight days issue. In recent seasons, Crew SC has been bad in the middle of the three games, yet managed a win over a hapless LA Galaxy side on Wednesday. How much did that take of these players is unknown, but rarely does the team make it through one of these stretches unscathed. Given the draw in Orlando last weekend, who knows what to expect in this game.
On the field, I think they, it begins with getting the offense going for Columbus. Wednesday's return to the more familiar 4-2-3-1 formation from the 3-4-2-1 saw a spark return up front and Crew SC should have won by more than just two. If that carries over to this match, the Black & Gold should be all right, but we need to see some consistency.
BDS: Newly acquired Designated Player Pedro Santos has gotten some minutes lately for the Crew, what have you seen out of him so far? And can he be the impact player that a DP should be?
MR: In just over 90 minutes of play, it's been a mixed bag for Santos. He made his debut off the bench in the second half in a humid Orlando when Crew SC were just trying to grind out a result. He was not very involved, but the team was all about defense at that point, which isn't really his game.
Against the Galaxy, he played from the start and looked much more comfortable for the Black & Gold on the right wing. Despite limited training sessions, he combined nicely with Federico Higuain and Justin Meram and set up Ola Kamara for the first goal. Perhaps his most noticeable trait was Santos' ability to draw fouls. He earned the set piece that led to Ashley Cole's red card and drew a penalty kick.
It's a small sample size, but Santos looks to be a good fit in Columbus. He's a similar player to the other attacking options, eager to get on the ball and create as well as get involved around the penalty area. We will seeing forward, but so far, so good.
BDS: With the Eastern Conference being noticeably tougher this season, how does a game like this set the Crew up for success in their playoff push?
MR: Given that the Black & Gold have played more games than anyone else in the East, every chance for three points is important.
If Columbus is going to have a chance at making the playoffs, the team needs to continue getting results, specifically wins at home, and hope for the best elsewhere. So far, that has worked out for Gregg Berhalter's side, but this team needs to stay hot or it will be on the outside of the postseason looking in.
Lineup prediction: Zack Steffen; Harrison Afful, Josh Williams, Jonathan Mensah, Jukka Raitala; Pedro Santos, Wil Trapp, Artur, Kekuta Manneh; Federico Higuain; Ola Kamara