By: Mike Newell
After losing the first leg of their opening round playoff series 1-0 in Colorado, the Crew look to attack and regain the advantage at home and move on to the next round. For the 2008 MLS cup champions this is not unfamiliar territory and head coach Robert Warzycha will be relying on his veteran players to carry them through.
The player at the top of that list will have to be the ageless Guillermo Barros Schelotto. The 2008 most valuable player of both the league and the cup final must be a creative force in order for the Crew to create any chances. Although the team had a few opportunities in the first leg to take the lead or even up the score, the finishing must be better in order for the club to progress to the second round. Last year Warzycha left Schelotto out of the first leg and it cost him dearly, I highly doubt that he’ll do it again just to make a point. Expect to see something similar to the 4-3-1-1 set up that Warzycha started with in Colorado. Since Columbus need to score goals you may see a slight modification with either Schelotto or even Robbie Rodgers playing a freer role behind or just off the front men.
The other tactical issue the Crew will need to figure out is how to keep possession earlier in the game to create chances. They attacked well in the final 30 minutes of the game, however in order to beat a well disciplined team like the Rapids you need early possession to establish your game. Better link up play between Stephen Lenhart and the midfield is needed. This would help with the possession issue while making Lenhart a bigger threat in the air from crosses coming into the box.[picappgallerysingle id=”10080838″]
Defensively the Crew back line will always have trouble with Omar Cummings pace and Conor Casey’s strength and pay making ability. It was Cummings pace that helped to undo them for the goal Thursday night. It will be vitally important for both wing backs to not over commit to an attack, as the Rapids are an excellent counter attacking team that like to use either Cummings or Casey on the wings to further spread out the center backs. This in turn leaves massive holes for midfielders to bomb in and score goals.
As for the Rapids, The key will be the counter as Gary Smith’s men will have to adopt a more defensive game in order to secure passage to the semis. More than likely the Rapids will stick to their 4-4-2 formation, though I would be surprised if this at times takes on a 4-4-1-1 look depending on the situation. Although Pablo Mastroeni scored in the first leg the club will have to rely on Marvel Wynne to anchor the back line as I believe they will under pressure for a good part of the match.
Wells Thompson will also have to play a massive role as the Midfield architect and the man who springs any counter attack. He had a great regular season and will have to show his quality again if the club is to progress.
Last but not least Conor Casey may have to come up with another big goal for the club. The talisman U.S international, like Schelotto may be the X-factor for Colorado. If he can create problems for the Crew center backs it could lead to chances for himself or strike partner Cummings.
Overall the 2nd leg is going to be a an entertaining match as both side really have to go for it as neither side are really that safe. The Rapids will be facing a very hostile crowd at Crew Stadium, while Warzycha’ men will be facing the weight of expectation, as this could be the final kick at the can at the MLS Cup for the ageing Columbus Crew.