Fresh off a bye week and playing at home, the Columbus Crew look to have the edge in intangibles heading into Saturday's matchup.
Robert Waryzcha boasts an improved squad this season with a clever attack and solidified backline. The Crew manager has guided his side to a 2-1-1 record thus far, good enough for 7 points and a 4th place spot in the Eastern Conference. The most recent result was a 2-1 road win against D.C. United.
Philadelphia has yet to win or draw in three games at Crew Stadium since joining Major League Soccer in 2010. Currently on six points, John Hackworth's team can leapfrog Columbus with a weekend victory.
Federico Higuain burst onto the scene when he joined MLS last Summer, bagging 5 goals and 7 assists in just 13 total games. He's an all-star candidate in 2013, a playmaker with great vision and creativity who operates as a withdrawn forward in what's best described as a 4-4-1-1 shape.
Jairo Arrieta is the other piece to that puzzle. The Costa Rican forward missed the Crew's win in D.C. due to international duty, but he should play at the top of the formation this weekend.
The wings are a strong point for Columbus this year, with any combination of Dominic Oduro, Eddie Gaven, and Ben Speas playing wide. The speedy Oduro was acquired from Chicago in an offseason trade that sent Dilly Duka in the other direction. Gaven is a blue collar, veteran workhorse, and Speas is a talented youngster with a lot of upside.
You have to like the depth on Warzycha's team, with guys like Justin Meram, Tony Tchani, Ethan Finlay, Ryan Finley, and Aaron Schoenfeld all capable of making contributions off the bench. New face Matias Sanchez is also in the mix, but the the Argentine midfielder has yet to break into the starting lineup.
The Columbus defense was a weak point in 2012 and ultimately lead to the team missing out on the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
The biggest improvement might be centrally, where Brazilian CB Glauber was brought in to play with captain Chad Marshall. Depth in the middle can be provided by Eric Gehrig and homegrown product Chad Barson.
The changes at fullback shouldn't be underestimated, with Tyson Wahl coming in at left back this season. It allows Josh Williams to move over to his more natural right back role. Both Crew fullbacks are playing with their natural foot on their natural sides.
Maybe Williams' best assets come in the final third though. He's the team's leading scorer with 2 tallies. He leads the team with shots on goal (5) and is tied for the team lead in total shots (9). Williams is a target on set pieces and scored a great header in the Crew's 2-1 win at PPL Park in 2012.
In the midfield, Agustin Viana and Danny O'Rourke both tend to play a bit more conservatively. O'Rourke is one of those solid and steady MLS vets, while the Uruguayan Viana brings some overseas experience into the fold.
Goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum was considered by some to be an all-star snub in 2012. He played in 33 of 34 games last year, winning the starting job from the oft-injured William Hesmer.
Possible Starting XI: Gruenebaum (GK), Wahl, Glauber, Marshall, Williams, Gaven, O'Rourke, Viana, Oduro, Higuain, Arrieta (4-4-1-1)
Columbus has its own version of Scouting Report on their website. They focus on former Crew midfielder Brian Carroll. Read it here: Union Scouting Report
Going back to Williams for a minute, he won the "double" from Crew fans in March – goal of the month and defender of the month
Believe it or not, Columbus is the only team to beat Chivas USA this year. Sit on that one for a minute.
Philadelphia is 0-3-0 at Crew Stadium and 2-5-0 all time against Columbus.