tBG) It's been little over a month since Columbus shellacked the Union 4-1 in Columbus. Since then, the Crew have gone 1-2-2. Which is the real Columbus Crew SC?
MR) It has been a strange month for Crew SC. The team hasn't played poorly, but small, mental mistakes have caused some issues. The Black & Gold switched off twice against D.C. United in a 2-0 loss and once to allow the Seattle Sounders back in a match they led 3-1. Twice they have gone a man down on the road in the first half, losing once and earning a draw most recently against Orlando City SC. The Chicago Fire game at home, where Columbus led 2-0 in the second half but ended 2-2, was the most questionable performance of the season.
The real Crew SC team is still being built. Although the majority of the players returned from last year and the system hasn't changed, this team remains a work in progress. The absence of Wil Trapp since early April has been an issue. Mohammed Saeid has filled in valiantly, but Trapp is one of the best young holding midfielders in this league and a future star.
A year ago, this team was trying to figure things out partway through the season and finished third in the East. This year is ahead of that pace with more firepower up top. If Crew SC can get things sorted come mid-summer, it could be another dangerous side come playoff time.
tBG) Columbus has given up two goals in each of their past five matches. Is there a weakness on the defense that the Union could exploit?
MR) One thing to note here is the Black & Gold are okay conceding goals. Obviously it's not ideal, but Berhalter's style is very attacking oriented and the players have accepted that this may mean giving up dangerous opportunities on the other end.
With that said, the defense has been surprisingly leaky these last several games. I go back to mental lapses again as a main reason. I'll also say that I think Michael Parkhurst and Emanuel Pogatetz are still finding their chemistry. Both have been good individually, but I'm not sure they've formed the quick bond that Parkhurst and Giancarlo González did a year ago.
As the season goes on, I expect the defense to get better, but like I said, they will be susceptible, especially without Trapp in the lineup.
tBG) Michael Parkhurst is out due to his red card against Orlando City. How big of a blow is losing him, and who do you think will replace him?
MR) This is a big blow for the Crew SC. The red card was Parkhurst's first of his MLS career, so it's not like Columbus has a lot of experience playing without him. He is the captain and the team's best defender.
With that said, Tyson Wahl has done well in relief duty. Although there are many Crew SC fans that aren't big on Wahl, he was a big part of Columbus' run to the playoffs last year and did well in his two starts already this season. He's a veteran of this league who goes about his job, doesn't complain about a lack of playing time, and is there when the coaches call on him.
Pogatetz and Wahl played 76 minutes together on Saturday after Parkhurst was sent off and were tested time and time again, allowing just one goal that should be Goal of the Week. Wahl should fill in and get the job done on Wednesday, but it is never easy to replace the Columbus captain.
Predicted lineup: Steve Clark; Hector Jimenez, Emanuel Pogatetz, Tyson Wahl, Chris Klute; Kristinn Steindorsson, Mohammed Saeid, Tony Tchani, Justin Meram; Federico Higuain; Kei Kamara The outside backs will be some combination of Jimenez, Klute, Waylon Francis, and Chad Barson. I assumed Jimenez would start since he has less minutes on his legs this season and Klute would give Francis a break. There's a very good chance Finlay starts at right mid, I just figured if either winger was out from the start, it would be him over Meram since Meram would only play a half.
Predicted score: I'm going to say 2-1 Columbus for the first road win of the season, but I don't feel great about it.