Date: Saturday, March 12
Time: 7:30 PM EST
Venue: MAPFRE Stadium - Columbus, OH
Referees: REF: Hilario Grajeda, AR1: James Conlee, AR2: Jason White, 4TH: Geoff Gamble
Television: Live Well Network (Philadelphia), CW Columbus (Columbus), MLS Direct Kick
Streaming: MLS Direct Kick, MLS Live (no blackout)
All-time record: The Union are 4-10-1 all time against the Crew. They have yet to win in Ohio. In MLS play, the Union are 0-6-1 when visiting Columbus. Last season, the Crew won their two home games against the Union by a combined score of 6-2.
What Columbus Crew SC will look like: The Crew were the Eastern Conference's representative in MLS Cup 2015. They began 2016 with a rematch against the team that defeated them to end last season, Portland Timbers, who won again by the same score. The Crew used their usual 4-2-3-1, with Kei Kamara leading the line, but they dropped Justin Meram from the left wing in favor of Hector Jimenez.
What the Union will look like: After an encouraging offseason on the transfer front, the Union were flat and over-matched against an excellent FC Dallas side. Newcomers Chris Pontius and Ilsinho were named starters, but neither had a performance of note. Anderson Conceicao, Ken Tribbett, and Keegan Rosenberry joined Fabinho on the back line, which was taught some hard lessons by the team with last season's best record in the Western Conference. CJ Sapong put in an excellent shift atop the formation, but was suffocated for service for most of the match. It was announced this week that Maurice Edu will be out for at least 3 months, so Brian Carroll is likely to earn the lion's share of those minutes. Roland Alberg and Fabian Herbers made their MLS debuts as subs, along with Sebastien Le Toux. They'll continue to play their 4-2-3-1 formation, and continue to acclimate their new personnel.
What to expect: Another week, another match as the opponent for someone else's home opener. It was already mentioned that the Union have yet to win at the Crew's home. One of the main reasons for that in at least the last three seasons has been Federico Higuain. The performer of last week's bicycle-kick goal is unequivocally the creative head of the Columbus attack. Whoever the Union deploy in their holding roles MUST neutralize him or it will be "same song, different verse" for the Blue-and-Gold. Union conceded their two goals last week primarily by getting caught on the counterattack. Fabinho and Rosenberry both get forward to supplement the offense, which didn't help things in dealing with Dallas' speed. Columbus has this same problem. Harrison Afful was also victimized at his right back spot, conceding the foul that lead to the free kick goal, and allowing Dairon Asprilla behind him which lead to Fanendo Adi's match-winner. The odds aren't great, but the Union's best chance comes with keeping a disciplined midfield and launching precise and efficient counters.