The Union caused an “Earthquake” last week with a huge win over San Jose, but to stay in the playoff race, the team have to win as many games as they can and hope that another team goes through a tough spell. The team upset the odds last week and will need to do so again as the top scorer in the MLS comes to town to try and keep the Union’s three winless streak at home alive.
It goes without saying that the key to the game is stopping Kamara, something that many teams have tried and failed to do this season en route to his blistering 18 goal record. Kamara is perhaps the most dangerous poacher in the MLS, able to seek out runs and execute to perfection. The supporting cast often fill the holes left open as defenders flock to Kamara, leaving the likes of Cedrick to pick up the pieces. Don’t be surprised to see Ethan White partner up with Marquez to try and stop the flamboyant striker this weekend.
The problem with Columbus however is that they suffer from a disease all too familiar for SkyBet Championship sides. There is no point in scoring two goals if you concede two. The Defense tends to leak goals and chances, leaving their goalkeeper Steve Clark to make a whopping 85 saves this season, the third most in the entire league.
Talking of Clark, that’s one weakness where the Union can perhaps capitalise on. Clark has a tendency to rush off of his line if the Defense makes an error which can cause huge problems. Former Union man Mcinerney missed an absolute sitter after dribbling past Clark last weak, whilst Barrios fired a rocket at the keeper who got to the edge of his box allowing the nail in the coffin shot to be hit moments later. McCarthy has began to resist the urges to run off of his line but Clark doesn’t seem to be as composed..meaning someone of Barnetta’s skill could easily dribble past with the ball close to his feet.
The two sides have very similar midfields…or at least they did. With the Union missing their league leading assists machine Maidana, it does leave a notable absence and one that may be exploited this game in particular, purely because of how similar both teams operate. Tchani and Trapp are both accomplished passers and can easily set up plays whilst carrying the flair to aid the defensive line. Ethan Finlay is very much the Barnetta of the midfield and Fabinho is already aware of what he can do. Without Maidana, the Union will struggle to dominate the middle third with short passes..something Columbus have been able to do very well this season.
The teams try to play similar styles of soccer but the difference is, the Union tend to vary their pace whilst Columbus go with “if you throw enough mud at a wall some of it will stick”. Against FC Dallas however, it didn’t work. A shutout win for Dallas saw the Crew come completely undone and their main source of attack was not working. The passing routes were shut down and Columbus failed to improvise. Instead of working out other ways to send the ball in, they continued to try and press with Kamara and continued to fail.
Dallas also exploited perhaps the Crews biggest flaw..and it’s one the Sons Of Ben will be very knowledgable on..set pieces. Harris opened the scoring following some great work from a Corner whilst a counter attack from a set piece at the other end put the second goal on the board. The Union have been woeful at defending set pieces this year and Columbus are even worse, conceding two more than the Union from attacking set pieces.
Formation: There may well be a few changes for the Union this week, the main one seeing Barnetta move into a central role once again to try and fill in for Maidana. This allows Ayuk and Le Toux to patrol the wings whilst Casey deserves the start after his heroics last weekend. He may not be as complete as Sapong but hey, the Union have struggled in front of goal recently and Casey netted two off the bench, there’s nothing really to lose. McCarthy should get the start in goal whilst Ethan White is more able to deal with Kamara’s dangerous runs than the more physical Vitoria.
Prediction: I think that after Columbus have come undone, they will address a lot of what went wrong after their five game unbeaten run came to a close. But saying that, the Union have already rocked the boat last week and it’s these sort of games that the home side usually end up winning. The more even fixtures end in losses whilst the bigger opponents fall to PPL Park residents. I can see there being plenty of goals in this as both teams share the same weaknesses. Unfortunately, I can’t separate the two sides and can see this resulting in a point.
Score: Philadelphia Union 2-2 Columbus Crew