Like we usually do before a weekend game, we welcome in a fellow blogger to help preview the game ahead. Today we bring in Massive Report’s Pat Murphy to discuss the Crew.
BDS: While most teams didn’t lose a lot of key players over the international break, Columbus had several key players active. How will their play on the international stage translate back to the MLS stage? And will there be any fatigue concerns?
MR: I imagine there will be some fatigue for the guys that were away, but there’s also the fact that they played at a high-intensity level for the last week while other guys were just in training. Gregg Berhalter intentionally made practice difficult last week so the team would, ideally, keep the level high. Guys like Gyasi Zardes, Wil Trapp and Harrison Afful are three of the top minutes getters for Crew SC this year, so they are used to handling a lot of game time.
The question could be more what the Black & Gold plan to do in terms of resting players given that the team plays again in Portland on Wednesday and then next week at home against the Rapids. It’s going to be a busy week and a lot of travel so I could see some squad rotation at some point. I think it will be mostly a full-strength lineup for this game though.
BDS: The attack for Columbus seems pretty focused on finding Gyasi Zardes in the penalty box, if he isn’t scoring for the Crew who steps up in his place? How can Dallas slow down Zardes?
MR: That’s been a big question for Crew SC all season. Zardes has certainly shouldered much of the scoring load. Part of the intent in bringing Justin Meram back from Orlando after a short six months away was in hopes that he could find his scoring from last year when he had 13 goals and seven assists. Meram scored his first goal since coming back in the last match, so that could be the answer.
As for slowing Zardes, I think it’s focusing on him off the ball. He’s done such a great job this season of getting in good positions this year, even if it doesn’t result in him scoring. You saw that on Tuesday night in the national team game when his run opened the space for Tyler Adams to score. Dallas will want to stay tight with him at all times but also keep an eye on the other players making runs off him.
BDS: The Crew sit fourth right now in a top-heavy Eastern Conference, do Crew fans feel good about where they are in the playoff race right now or is there any cause for concern?
MR: I think most fans are confident. Gregg Berhalter’s teams usually do well as we get to the final 10 games of the season. Right now, the Black & Gold have one loss in the last six matches, so that seems to be happening again. The team would certainly like to get a home game in the knockout round but Berhalter and his staff do a great job of planning tactically for teams in a playoff setting that fans are feeling comfortable as long as the team makes the playoffs.