The Union face Eastern Conference leading Columbus Crew
tonight at PPL Park (8PM/ESPN2) in the first ever match
between these two teams. Peter Nowak’s team looks to rebound from a
disappointing 1-1 draw with New England last
Saturday. The Crew, who “boast” one of the more unfortunate logos in American
professional sports, are coming off a 3-1 loss to Chivas.
Columbus arrives in Chester with one the most
productive designated players in league history. In the course of leading the
Crew to the 2008 MLS Cup Guillermo Barros Schelotto was named the 2008 MLS Most
Valuable Player, MLS Cup 2008 MVP and was a member of the 2008 MLS Best XI team.
He brings a wealth of experience, having appeared in 211 games for Boca
Juniors. He also brings a bit of a nasty streak as he was suspended for a game
earlier this season for throwing an elbow at Chivas USA defender Michael Umaña.
The Crew also feature a few players familiar to anyone who’s
followed the USMNT over the years. Although he did not play against Chivas the
ageless and tireless Frankie Hejduk remains a viable option for the Crew as an
outside back. You think Sebastien Le Toux can run all day? Hejduk, who turns 36
today, never stops running. Ever.
Eddie Gaven, who signed with MLS at the age of 16, is in his
eighth year in the league. Despite looking like he should be playing guitar
next to Chris Robinson with the Black Crowes Gaven was once seen as a potential
cornerstone for the USMNT. Although he has not lived up to expectations on the
international level he has found a niche with Columbus as a midfielder who is able to get
forward and flash in the offensive third. He leads the Crew in minutes played.
things down in the middle of the Crew backline. At 6’4” Marshall provides an imposing presence in the
back. He’ll also pose a challenge for the Union
on set pieces.
What did we learn about the Union from their draw against New England? Well, we learned that Le Toux has no
problems cracking bending balls from the top of the eighteen into the back of
the net. We also learned that goalie Chris Seitz did not do such a great job
setting up his wall on New England’s goal off
of a free kick.
I thought newcomer Eduardo Coudet acquitted himself quite
well in his first MLS game. He provided creativity and passing ability from the
center of the park. He often came back into the defensive third to receive the
ball and jumpstart the Union attack. Although he’s not wearing the #10 shirt he
certainly played like a traditional #10 - at least more so than any other Union
midfielder has so far.
Aside from Coudet’s introduction into the lineup I thought
the Union dominated possession for long stretches of the New
England game. Soccer is just a cruel sport in that the Union seem to continually be punished for their mistakes.
Their inability to get out of their own way has really been the story of the
season thus far.
What, if anything, would I change if I was filling out the
lineup card tonight? Well, assuming he’s healthy I would insert Shea Salinas
into the right back spot Cristian Arrieta has been occupying. Nowak’s been
implementing a get-forward-or-get-out-of-the-way-style all season. Why not then
into the lineup and let him run at people? He certainly has the pace.
One other change I would make would be to sit down Alejandro
Moreno. Yes, he brings veteran savvy to the field. Yes, he has a wonderful
ability to hold up play and draw fouls. However, he’s shown an inability to put
the ball into the net. The Union have a glut
of midfielders. Why not pair Le Toux and Danny Mwanga up top and go with a
midfield of Fred, Stefani Miglioranzi, Coudet, and Justin Mapp (or any other
midfield combination for that matter)? I’d like to see Nowak shake up his
The Crew present a serious challenge for the Union. While they’ve been tremendous at home this will be
the stiffest home test they’ve faced thus far. They’ve shown they can play with
anyone. They’ll need to keep things tight in the back and stay away from that
one devastating mistake.
One final note before I throw my final score prediction out
there. The Union announced they’ve come to
terms with Colombian defender Juan Diego Gonzalez Alzate. He’s played in Colombia, Argentina, and Mexico.
No word on when he’ll make his debut, but he brings some much needed depth to
the Union’s central defense.
Prediction: Schelotto and his Mitch Albom haircut are too much for the Union as the Crew win it 2-1.