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Know Thy Enemy: Revolution at Crew Homewrecker Edition

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Can the Revolution continue their top of the table form AND spoil the opening of the the Crew’s new stadium?

MLS: Columbus Crew SC at New England Revolution Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

I do not believe in coincidences. Someone is trying to send a message to the New England Revolution and I am not having it.

Why else would the New England Revolution be getting a rare national television game on ESPN against the defending MLS Cup Champions who have just rebranded (again) and are opening their SECOND soccer specific stadium. Why yes, let’s put the Crew against the team last original MLS logo who play in an NFL stadium and raise a championship banner against the team that’s 0-5 in MLS Cup Finals, that’s a tremendous story line.

What it is an insult to the magnificent Crayon Flag, the greatest logo in MLS, AND an insult to Fortress Foxboro where the Revs are 5-0 this year. Someone did this on purpose because you’re going to bring up the Revs SSS situation in greater Boston at some point today, which is fine. What you’re never going to bring up are the Patriots screwing Hartford, Connecticut before getting approval for Gillette Stadium.

So yes, this is, as always, an ongoing conspiracy about why the Revs aren’t playing in the best state in New England. What the heck is Lower dot com anyway?

Checks the google machine ... Oh, it’s a refinance/mortgage company. An appropriate name for a stadium that will probably have a lower reputation than its predecessor because you’ve got big shoes to fill Lower.com Stadium and a lot of Dos A Cero games to win. Too bad you might start 0-1. It’d be a shame to make a poor first impression but thankfully the Crew are still a thing and you don’t represent Columbia, South Carolina’s soccer team.

As always we chat with our good friend Pat Murphy from Massive Report about all things Crew, including the a brief recap of the failtacular that was the one match (and one loss) history of Columbus SC. Be sure to check out my answers to Pat’s questions over on their site.

The New England Revolution and Columbus Crew kickoff at 5:13pm today on ESPN. Enjoy it Columbus, you’ve earned this day several times over with what you’ve dealt with the past few years.

TBM: There’s no question, but right before our last meeting someone tried to retire “The Crew”, which went badly and now things are mostly back to normal. Sum up the turnaround with the Crew rebrand.

PM: The rebrand died... sort of. The Crew’s new ownership, which has been fantastic up until that point, decided to try and change things up and put their own mark on the team, which included changing the official name to “Columbus SC.” That didn’t sit well with supporters.

If you know much about Crew supporters, which clearly the new ownership did not, it’s that they won’t sit by and let things happen to their team. There were protests and Twitter rants and messages sent to the front office. After multiple meetings with supporters, a compromise of sorts was reached with the new logo (which really doesn’t take effect until next year) remaining, minus the weird triangle in the bottom corner and 96 being inserted in the log. Oh, and the team remained named “The Columbus Crew.”

All’s well that’s ends well, I guess. But this was a major misstep by what most Black & Gold fans thought was their savior.

TBM: Right after our last meeting, the Crew rattled off 3 straight wins but only picked up a point on a two game goalless road trip. Is this a case of just needing some home cooking or are there concerns from those two road games?

PM: The concerns remain the same with this Crew team: injuries. For whatever reason, this team just can’t get healthy. Nine of the team’s usual starting 10 field players have missed time this year. You would think a three-week break for the Nation’s League would have made things better, but it didn’t, with more guys getting hurt during training.

Basically, this is the same Black & Gold side that played a year ago, but with Artur and Milton Valenzuela missing a good chunk of the early season. The additions of Kevin Molino and Bradley Wright-Phillips, the big offseason additions that garnered plenty of hype, have played a combined 322 minutes.

The three consecutive wins were important for Columbus, given all of that, but so too were these last two road matches. Despite a loss at Philly and a draw at Austin, the Crew played fairly well. The attack isn’t what it should be at this point in the season, but the team is still, for the most part, finding ways to grind out results.

TBM: The offense was a little stagnant at the beginning of the year in MLS play - CCL games, injuries, etc., weren’t helping that - have things improved as the regular season went on or are there still some struggles?

PM: The simple answer is no. That’s also the complex answer. The Crew has scored nine goals this year, which is tied with teams in 11th and 12th place in the Eastern Conference. The Black & Gold have the worst expected goals (if you like that analytic) in MLS. The offense has essentially been Lucas Zelaryan, hoping for Gyasi Zardes to get on the end of a cross or a fortunate breakaway.

This certainly won’t cut it in MLS and it’s a credit to Columbus’ defense that the team is still in a playoff position. Caleb Porter talked this week about needing to be less predictable in attack, so we’ll see if that happens. Missing guys like Molino, Luis Diaz and even Milton Valenzuela have made things more difficult but this team needs to have some different ideas in the final third.

TBM: With Zardes going to the Gold Cup, who is going to fill his shoes? Is BWP in line for some serious starting minutes? And who else is going to be missing short term for Columbus?

PM: Bradley Wright-Phillips would be the next man up if he weren’t out with an injury. Whether he’s able to get back after this game — Zardes will play against New England, despite dealing with his own injury — or not is unknown at this point. If he’s not healthy/fit, it’s going to be very interesting to see how Porter deals with the striker position. Second-year player Miguel Berry was called back from on load to provide cover.

There is the possibility that the Crew go with a false 9 and try and play that way, but that’s not really been Porter’s style. Could the team sign another forward? I guess, but what would happen once Zardes is back and Wright-Phillips is healthy? Your guess is as good as mine.

Lineup/Injuries/Predictions/Etc

Injuries are too many to list. Click here for those. I predicted 2-0 Crew, but that is entirely based on the historical significance and not any real rationale.

My guess at the lineup:

Eloy Room

Harrison Afful-Jonathan Mensah-Vito Wormgoor-Milton Valenzuela

Darlington Nagbe-Marlon Hairston

Alexandru Matan-Lucas Zelarayan-Pedro Santos

Gyasi Zardes