The last time the Portland Timbers hosted the Columbus Crew, Hanyer Mosquera, Lovel Palmer, Mike Chabala, Franck Songo'o, Kris Boyd and Troy Perkins were in the starting line up. While that seems like an eternity ago, the Crew probably feel the same way about the last time they scored. With such an unfamiliar opponent, we checked in with SB Nation's Columbus blog, Massive Report, to figure out how the teams stack up. Thanks to Pat Murphy, who helped us out:
1. Columbus is set to miss a few players due to World Cup call ups. Which player's absence will be the most difficult to replace?
Michael Parkhurst will probably be the most difficult. The U.S. international has been a rock in the center of the Crew's back line this season due to his great defensive positioning. He has hardly stepped out of place all year and been a part of one of the brighter units for the Black and Gold.
Due to the other two departures also being defenders, the back line as a whole will be impacted pretty substantially. With center back Giancarlo Gonzalez and left back Waylon Francis both leaving for Costa Rica, there will be three new players on a defense that has had the same four starters all season.
2. After a fast start, the Crew haven't won since March and haven't picked up any points since April. What's changed?
The biggest issue has been an inability to score goals. It has been three matches since Columbus put the ball in the net and four games since they did so from the run of play. The Crew are conceding a little more than a goal a game, which is certainly enough to get results yet they aren't scoring the goals to help the defense.
The three match losing streak also corresponded with three matches in seven days and very little lineup change. The coaches and players are hopeful that being well rested this weekend will help the goals start coming along with the results.
3. What are the biggest differences for the Crew under Gregg Berhalter and the new ownership? How much patience do fans have?
There are a lot of differences in this "New Era." The new owner has has brought upgrades to Columbus Crew Stadium and the the Crew's training grounds. Berhalter has brought a new culture, style of play to the team, a renewed sense of confidence. Even with the recent slide, the players have bought in to the system and believe that things will turn around.
In terms of patience, fans are beginning to get restless. I believe the three wins to start the season set the bar too high for some fans and now they are rather disappointed things haven't continued to go as well. Had the results worked out differently, with the wins spread out more, I don't think people would be as concerned. Berhalter continues to preach that this a process and looking at how the team plays.
He has a plan that is focused on the long term, so it is about changing the culture of the Crew.
Expected Starting XI:
Steve Clark; Josh Williams, Tyson Wahl, Giancarlo Gonzalez, Ben Sweat; Hector Jimenez, Will Trapp, Tony Tchani, Bernardo Anor; Federico Higuain, Dominic Oduro