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Know Thy Enemy: Revolution at Crew

Both the Crew and Revs are off to solid starts in the East, can New England take advantage of a recent Columbus losing streak to get a road result?

MLS: Columbus Crew SC at New England Revolution Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

In the past few years, both the New England Revolution and Columbus Crew have been on the verge of a special season and missed the playoffs.

The Revs were MLS Cup runners up in 2014 with the Crew taking that honor the following year in 2015, and with the two teams meeting in a testy playoff series in ‘14 I always wondered if these two teams had stayed more consistent in the standings if a rivalry (the Kei Kamara Derby?) could have been brewing. Alas, it seems it was not meant to be though I’ve always liked this match from a more neutral perspective. As a Revs fan, I think Columbus is one of the toughest teams to play against.

For more on my thoughts on the match, head on over to Massive Report to read my answer’s to Pat Murphy’s questions. Pat is here to talk about Gyasi Zardes and the Crew’s fast start as well as the losing skid Columbus is on currently. Another MR contributor Ralph Schudel and I preview today’s match on the latest episode of Six States, One Pod as well.

TBM: I can’t believe I’m actually starting with this question...but is Gyasi Zardes actually good at soccer? If Kei and Ola were more target forwards, how does Gyasi’s early scoring form compare to the Kamaras of old and the Crew’s style of play now?

PM: I do think Gyasi is good at soccer. You don’t get on the national team radar and not be. What’s been interesting this season for me is watching him in practice and just how hard he works on things. The kid wants to be great and we forget he’s still just entering the prime of his career.

As for how he fits, he’s kind of in the middle between Kei and Ola. He is not as freakishly athletic as Kei, but has the size to be dangerous in the air. He doesn’t find space in behind as well as Ola, but still has good timing on his runs and is a relatively (for MLS standards) good finisher. He’s kind of the perfect blend.

The big question coming into the season was, is it the system that made Kei and Ola so successful or are those two just that good. You guys saw Kei first hand out of a Gregg Berhalter system and it didn’t go great. It’s going better in Vancouver for Kei although Ola’s had a slow start in LA. In the meantime, Gyasi has four goals.

With that said, Zardes hasn’t scored in a few weeks (and strangely has only done so against Canadian teams) and questions are beginning to get asked. I still think he’s in for a double-digit goal year, but we’re going to see.

TBM: Gyasi and Federico Higuain seem to be the bulk of the Crew’s attacking force, but who else should the Revs be worried about? Is there a matchup you would like for the Crew on offense if you were Gregg Berhalter this weekend?

PM: Pedro Santos is a good one that MLS is still learning about. The winger came over late last year and quickly filled the void left by Ethan Finlay. He can play on the right or the left and has a good shot. He only has one MLS goal (which came a few weeks ago), but he’s not afraid to shoot. He’s also a good passer, solid crosser and phenomenal diver... err, sorry. He’s good at drawing fouls.

Beyond him, I think Brazilian central midfielder Artur is beginning to develop an offensive game. The younger player scored in the playoffs last year and Berhalter is encouraging him to shoot more. He’s done that. The ball hasn’t gone in yet, but he’s hit the crossbar at least once and come close a couple of other times.

TBM: First four games the Crew went 3-0-1 with eight goals and in their last three they’ve gone 0-3 with just one goal...what was working well in March and what changed this month?

PM: Yeah, it’s weird. I think the four games unbeaten made the Black & Gold look better than they actually were, but the 0-3 stretch is making them looking worse, if that makes sense. In all three of the recent losses, Crew SC has been the better team. In those three games, Columbus had a total of 55 shots and the opponents totaled 15. For some reason, they could only score once, with that goal coming in the 2-1 loss to the Whitecaps.

The road games against the Chicago Fire and D.C. United both should have been wins, or ties at least. It’s just been a weird stretch. I think the fanbase is getting a bit frustrated, but the players and coaches see it for what it is, which is a period where the ball just won’t go in the net. We’ll see if that changes on Saturday.

Prop Bet: Number of combined posts Revs/Crew hit in this game? I’ll take the over, just set the number.

That’s a good one. I’ll put it at 5. Although I want to take the over, I’ll go under just so we each have something to root for.

Lineups/Injuries/Predictions/Etc.

Injuries: Midfielder Eduardo Sosa is out. Center back Gaston Sauro, winger Mike Grella and midfielder Luis Argudo are questionable

Projected lineup:

Zack Steffen

Harrison Afful-Jonathan Mensah-Josh Williams-Milton Valenzuela

Pedro Santos-Artur-Wil Trapp-Niko Hansen

Federico Higuain

Gyasi Zardes