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A Philadelphia Union blog hosted by Christopher A. Vito and Matthew De George

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Columbus Crew preview: Back at it

When the Union clash with the Columbus Crew Wednesday afternoon (kickoff at 1 p.m. available online at, they should see plenty of similarities in the yellow-clad team on the other side of the pitch.

After all, both are hard at work incorporating a bevy of new players into their scheme this offseason. The Crew, though, have had a little more practice at it.

Wednesday represents Columbus’ fifth preseason game, including a 1-0 win in their Walt Disney World Pro Soccer Classic over Toronto FC. But there are red flags for the team that finished sixth in the Eastern Conference standings last year to be wary of.

For one, they’ve scored only four goals in four games; only two have come from open play, including a perfectly executed corner kick from the foot of playmaker Federico Higuain to the head of new Brazilian defender Glauber against Toronto.

The Crew get an added edge with the return of Costa Rican international Jairo Arrieta from a national team camp with his county and venerable MLS stalwart Eddie Gaven from the birth of his second child.

The Crew’s roster hasn’t been immune to turnover. Gone from last season are midfielders Chris Birchall, Milovan Mirosevic and Dilly Duka. The defense is almost completely rebuilt thanks to the departures of Carlos Mendes, Sebastien Miranda and Nemanja Vukovic. They’re solid down the center with Andy Gruenebaum in goal, Gaven and Higuain holding down the midfield and Chad Marshall likely pairing with Glauber in the center of defense. Tyson Wahl should play a regular role in the backline, while Dominic Oduro arrives from Chicago to provide punch to the forward line.

As far as the Union, we’ll see if there are changes in the offing. The first unit was very ineffective in the first half and only started to come together after halftime before being subbed out after only a quarter-hour. Something tells me the only changes in the side, though, will be related to the defense, i.e. swapping Amobi Okugo back into the midfield at the expense of Keon Daniel if either Chris Albright or Bakary Soumare is ready to pair with Jeff Parke in the center. Fostering chemistry, rather than change, should be the name of the game.

The challenge for the first-teamers will be avoiding a repeat of their performance last time; the task for the second-teamers will be precisely the opposite. Can the rising stock that is Leo Fernandes impress again? Can the energetic performances of Roger Torres, Greg Jordan and Antoine Hoppenot be replicated?

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