Union host the defending Eastern Conference champions in their final match before the Copa America Centenario break.
Game: Philadelphia Union vs Columbus Crew SC
Date: Wednesday, June 1
Time: 7:00 PM EST
Venue: Talen Energy Stadium - Chester, PA
Referees: REF: ROBERT SIBIGA, AR1: Adam Wienckowski, AR2: Kevin Klinger, 4TH: Alan Kelly
Television: MLS LIVE, The Comcast Network, TWCSC-OH, CW Columbus
Streaming: MLS Direct Kick, MLS Live
All-time record: The Union are 5-10-1 all time against the Crew, after winning the season's first matchup back in March by a score of 2-1. The Union are an even 4-4-0 at home versus Columbus, and they will be looking to stay undefeated at home this season.
What Columbus Crew SC will look like: It's not often that player trades happen during a season, and even more rare when an in-league transfer involves a team's leading scorer. But back on May 12th, that's exactly what happened, as Kei Kamara was sent to New England Revolution. The Crew seemed to have sorted things out by replacing him with another Kamara: Ola. He tied himself for second place on the team's scoring list at three by netting a hat trick in a win this past Saturday against Real Salt Lake. There isn't a lot of film for me to go on, but his three goals reveal that he has good run timing. For his first goal, he ran off the shoulder of the center back and slid to meet a cross. His other two goals were headers; one from the run of play, the other off a corner. He allows Crew SC to stay in their 4-2-3-1 formation.
Columbus will be without starting centerback Gaston Sauro, as he is dealing with a PCL tear suffered in their May 21st matchup with Toronto FC. Rodrigo Saravia started alongside team captain Michael Parkhurst in their last match against RSL. The unfamiliarity showed, as they conceded 3 goals, two of which were in the final 15 minutes of the match. This is the area that Union can exploit.
What the Philadelphia Union will look like: This Wednesday's match will be Union's 6th in 22 days. The fatigue is roughly equal for all teams, though. The Union have done a little better with rotating players, but largely, they have continued to use their 4-2-3-1 with Sebastien Le Toux and Chris Pontius on the wings, and Tranquillo Barnetta behind CJ Sapong in the center. Brian Carroll and Warren Creavalle have played the holding roles the last three matches, as Vincent Nogueira has been dealing with minor injury issues. Jim Curtin has not changed much about his lineup or approach all season.
Expect this lineup to work through Sapong as a hold-up player, and allow Tranquillo Barnetta to distribute out wide. They'll use Sapong as their primary target, with the weak-side winger crashing in in support. Le Toux has notched his two goals this season doing exactly that. The Union use their fullbacks a lot in support of their offense, so Keegan Rosenberry and Fabinho will be prominent in the Union's forward movements.
What to expect: Columbus are dynamic going forward with Justin Meram, Federico Higuain, and Ethan Finlay as their offensive support. They seemed to play with renewed vigor in the wake of ridding themselves of Kei Kamara. They started off this season poorly, and will look to head into the mini-break confident. Also, Andre Blake will not be starting for the Union, so the Crew will look to see how ready the replacement is.
It may be a bit of a "war of attrition" type of a match, but certainly the Union will look to target whoever the Crew start in the center of defense. Likewise, the Union had Josh Yaro is questionable to return from an injured shoulder sustained in Orlando. I think the Union will bring more than normal defensive intensity to protect their backup keeper. But, it is a home match, so bunkering won't help. I'll expect the Union to try to settle the game down, and make their push for a win after the hour mark.