Scouting report: Breakdown of what Columbus has to offer in Saturday's clash with the Crew
Columbus' victory over D.C. United in week one was probably the most comprehensive of several lopsided blowouts.
The Crew blanked United three to nothing, holding 57 percent of the possession and limiting Ben Olsen's squad to just one shot on goal inside RFK Stadium.
That's the only good film we have on Gregg Berhalter's new-look team. The former American international took over for the departed Robert Warzycha in November and revamped a side that missed out on the playoffs with 41 points and a 12-17-5 record in 2013.
Columbus is coming off a bye week, and they have performed well against Philadelphia at home. The Union are 0-3-1 at Crew Stadium and did not earn a point there until last season's 1-1 draw.
All-time, Philadelphia is 3-5-1 against Columbus. The Union took the season series in 2013 with a road draw and a home win.
The Crew attack was left mostly intact by Berhalter.
It revolves around playmaker Federico Higuain, striker Jairo Arrieta, and winger/forward Dominic Oduro.
Graphic: A look at the projected starters and formation of head coach Gregg Berhalter's new look Crew on Saturday
Arrieta is the Costa Rican striker who bagged three goals and added four assists last year. Oduro is the speedy winger who lead the team with 13 goals and contributed four assists as well. He was suspended for the opening game in the carryover from a red card earned in the 2013 season finale. Berhalter has the option of starting Oduro Saturday, or rolling out the same team that thrashed D.C.
Higuain pulls the strings from a withdrawn forward role in a shape that looks like a 4-4-1-1 but probably functions more like a 4-2-3-1. In the D.C. game, he looked to drop deeper into the midfield to start the attack, and ended up with a late goal after first converting a penalty in the 27th minute. He's the obvious danger man to keep an eye on.
In the midfield, Berhalter used Bernardo Anor on the left, Wil Trapp and Tony Tchani centrally, and former Los Angeles winger Hector Jimenez on the right. Justin Meram was used as a second half subsitute and Daniel Paladini will also get time this season in the center of the park.
The rearguard includes three brand new defenders and a new goalkeeper.
Starting at left back, you've got Costa Rica international Waylon Francis. The 23 year old was signed this Winter after a couple of successful seasons with Herediano.
His Costa Rica teammate Giancarlo Gonzalez forms one half of the new center back partnership. The other half is the rock solid Michael Parkhurst, one of the many United States international players who returned to MLS in the past year. Traditionally a right back, Parkhurst will play center back for the Crew this season.
In goal, American Steve Clark was brought home from Norway after four years with Hønefoss BK.
The only starting defender from 2013 is right back Josh Williams, who earned an assist on Columbus' opening goal against D.C.
For depth, consider homegrown player Chad Barson, Agustin Viana, and Tyson Wahl. Eric Gehrig is another center back option.
Possible Starting XI: Clark (GK), Francis, Parkhurst, Gonzalez, Williams, Anor, Trapp, Tchani, Jimenez, Higuain, Arrieta
What do you think about this Crew team behind Berhalter? Leave a comment below.
Contact Union writer Kevin Kinkead at email@example.com