1. Columbus had a rough stretch through July and August that dropped them below the red line in the East, but more recently, they’ve won two of their last three. How does the team look now, and where are they expected to finish this season?
The team is starting to recapture what made them great in 2020 and the key to that has been health. Defensively, the Crew has improved drastically thanks to the return of Josh Williams and Milton Valenzuela to re-unite with Jonathan Mensah and Harrison Afful for that championship back four. In the two games that those four have started together this season, the Crew has conceded just once and earned four points. This includes the season-opening 0-0 draw against Philly. The attack is still looking for more open play goals after Gyasi Zardes’ remarkable performance against CF Montreal. Confidence is much stronger within the Black & Gold strong with good results and a Campeones Cup title during the week.
2. A look of Crew fans seemed really excited about the Campeones Cup victory, and I’m seeing plenty of excitement from within the club itself. Do you think that the win will boost the team’s confidence, or will they find themselves with a bit of a post-trophy hangover come Sunday?
There is for sure a confidence boost for an important trophy that made the Crew the fifth MLS club to win a continental trophy. The performance was scrappy that included the team’s first clean sheet in over two months. A strong defense has been the identity of the Crew since last season and against the Union, defense is always what shines. The win on Wednesday has Columbus amped up to chase for a playoff spot.
3. Is there one section of the Crew’s game where they really punish teams, and how do you expect to see that on Sunday?
I’d say they punish team’s when they can play quick transitions. We saw that in both the CF Montreal game and Cruz Azul match as the Crew went for aggressive interceptions in the defensive third to start fast counterattacks. Darlington Nagbe in particular was impressive in the Campeones Cup running into open space to create counters and force fouls for Lucas Zelarayan’s free kicks. If Zelarayan gets a free kick within 25 yards, it could spell trouble for Philadelphia.
4. Score predictions, injuries/suspensions, and lineups
Projected XI: Bush; Afful, Mensah, Williams, Valenzuela, Nagbe, Hairston, Diaz, Zelarayan, Matan, Berry
Absences: Artur, Aidan Morris, Perry Kitchen, Vito Wormgoor, and possibly Gyasi Zardes and Eloy Room
Score Prediction: 0-0