Patrick Murphy, Massive Report) Well, for one, Crew SC finally won a game. But we'll touch on that below. Other than that, the team is starting to get healthier. Federico Higuain made his third consecutive start last week and he is such an important part of the offense. Gaston Sauro while still not back is getting closer, which creates depth and competition at the center-back position.
In addition to that, the team is getting complimentary scoring other than Ola Kamara. This was a minor problem last year when talk began as to what would happen if Kei Kamara got hurt. Nothing did and he kept scoring at a high rate (also Ethan Finlay had a good year), but this season it's been pretty much Ola or bust since Kei was traded. Over the last two matches, Finlay has three goals, Justin Meram has a goal and an assist and Higuain scored. If they can keep those guys firing, this makes for a much more dangerous side.
tBG) Prior to beating the New England Revolution this past weekend, Crew SC was winless in ten. What has the main issue been, and what changed against the Revs?
MR) The majority of the issues were listed above, but one thing I didn't touch on is regression. Not only have some players come back down from career years a season ago, but everything seems to have dropped below the mean after the MLS Cup Final run.
Each game over that 10-match stretch, and contests before that, seemed to have a different thing to point to that resulted in a win becoming a draw or a draw becoming a loss. Two weeks ago against NYCFC is a prime example. Columbus scored late to take a 2-1 lead and then the back line didn't all step together in the dying moments and Andrea Pirlo found David Villa onside in the Black & Gold penalty area.
Against the Revolution, the team put on a solid defensive performance (something that hadn't been seen in a while), converted chances offensively, which allowed Crew SC to play with a lead, and played with some grit to close out the match. This type of performance is what fans expected all seasons but have rarely gotten, or at least not for 90 minutes at a time.
tBG) I'd be remiss if I didn't ask how Conor Casey was doing with Columbus. He was a fan favorite here, and many fans didn't want to see him go. How has he fit into Columbus' plans?
MR) Sadly there's not much to report on the Conor Casey front. He's played a total of eight MLS minutes in two games after dealing with injuries throughout much of the season. After the Kei traded, Ola was coming back from a hamstring injury and Gregg Berhalter started Ethan Finlay up top because every forward on the roster was hurt. Crew SC traded for forward Adam Jahn recently, in part to have competition and depth at the position.
Casey is now back in full training after a knee problem and looked good in the bits we've seen in practice. It would be nice to get him some minutes as I know from talking to him that this has been a rough season for him personally.
injuries, suspensiona, etc.: No suspensions. Center back Gaston Sauro is back in training after recovering from a torn PCL, but he will not feature in this one. Left backs Waylon Francis and Corey Ashe both have been out with injuries (Francis-shoulder, Ashe-knee). Both trained on Tuesday. I wouldn't be surprised for Ashe to be in the 18 for the match, but Francis still doesn't seem likely.
Predicted lineup: Steve Clark; Harrison Afful, Michael Parkhurst, Nicolai Næss, Hector Jimenez; Ethan Finlay, Tony Tchani, Wil Trapp, Justin Meram; Federico Higuain; Ola Kamara