Match previews

Match preview: Columbus Crew vs. Philadelphia Union

Photo: Paul Rudderow

Who: Philadelphia Union (2020: 4-1-3, 15 points, 3rd place in the East) vs. Columbus Crew (5-1-2, 17 points, 2nd place in the East)
What: 2020 regular season
Where: Mapfre Stadium, Columbus, OH
When: Wednesday, September 2, 2020 at 7:30 p.m. (Eastern)
Watch: PHL 17
Whistle: Referee: Robert Sbriga; Assistant referees: Matthew Nelson, C.J. Morgante; Fourth official: Victor Rivas; VAR: Jorge Gonzales

The Union lit it up on Saturday night with an emphatic 4-1 victory over a depleted D.C. United team, giving them a regular season unbeaten streak of seven games. But there’s not much time to celebrate, though, as they leave the Acela corridor tonight en route to Mapfre Stadium to play the Columbus Crew. With a win, the Union can move into first place ahead of the now second-place Crew and the first place Toronto FC in the standings. (Toronto has been padding their point totals in the “Poutine League,” playing three games each vs Vancouver and Montreal.)

Scouting report: Crew

The Columbus Crew got off to a fast start this season following a disappointing tenth place finish last year. On Saturday they had a 0-0 draw against their in-state rival Cincinnati which followed a 1-0 loss to NYC FC, their first lost points this season. In these two games the Crew have had a hard time creating chances and, obviously, scoring. They have been stout on defense throughout giving up only two goals in league play thus far.

The Crew’s big off-season signing was DP Lucas Zelarayan from Tigres. Zelarayan, a central attacking midfielder, can both drive and create and is complimented at the midfield by their other big acquisition, Darlington Nagbe, who you may remember from such teams as Atlanta United and the Portland Timbers. Nagbe is a long time veteran and a smooth, box-to-box player. Forward Gyasi Zardes won’t create much on his own but his five goals this season and past history shows he can finish his chances.

The Crew tends to eschew horizontal in favor of vertical passing for a free-wheeling style of play. Right wingback Harrison Afful likes to push forward and will keep Kai Wagner or Matt Real honest. They are not much of a high press team but will collapse back into a block,  stuffing the center of the field.

Injury Report: OUT: Vito Wormgoor (d)

Suspended: None

Scouting report: Union

After a good run in the tables but an inconsistent run on the field, the Union seem to have found their game. They have generated multiple good chances beyond their goals and the defense has tightened up so Andre Blake isn’t the perpetual man of the match. With current MLS Player of the week Kacper Przbylko back in form the future looks bright.

Against DC United, Jim Curtin uncharacteristically rested two regular starters in Mark McKenzie and Ray Gaddis, and used all five of his subs, presumably to have his “A” team ready for this big match against Columbus. Curtin recently stated that rotating three is the sweet spot – so expect these changes:

  1. McKenzie for Glesnes
  2. Gaddis for Mbaizo
  3. Real for a still nicked up Kai Wagner

Though not expected, it might be a good idea to rest Bedoya. By the end of each game, the captain has been looking like Donald Trump walking down a ramp.

Physical defensive has hamstrung the Crew so it is incumbent upon the Union to body up and keep the crew off their game. Martinez will have to play both tough and smart to limit Zelarayan’s opportunities – smart in that one more yellow and El Brujo is suspended for the next match.

The Union midfield has been moving the ball well and connecting from the backline. Columbus will often clog up the middle morphing into an almost 4-2-2-2 so the Union must be prepared to use the full width of the field. With both strikers in good form and a run of great passes there should be ample chances.

Injury Report:

  • OUT: D – Aurelien Collin (leg injury)
  • QUESTIONABLE: D – Kai Wagner (lower leg injury)

Suspension Report: None

Key Matchup:  Union offense vs Crew defense

The Crew have only given up two goals this season so it will be a challenge for the Union to unlock their defense. With the good form the Union have been showing will make for an interesting matchup.

Player to Watch: Lucas Zelarayan

With a new team, league, some injuries and a disjointed season, Zelarayan has played well, but not up to his potential. Will this be his breakout game? Let’s hope not.

Prediction: Columbus 1-2 Philadelphia

Philadelphia Union: +240
Columbus Crew: +110

For you degenerate gamblers…What do casinos know about betting anyway?


  1. My reading of the standings says a win tonight (by 2 or more) puts the Union in 1st place

  2. just a heads up for the degens, odds on draftkings are +370 for a union W

  3. Chris Gibbons says:

    I want to live the entirety of my life in the Poutine League. Give me French fries and gravy all day every day, and Thierry Henry gesticulating at every touch from the sidelines. Sign me up for that.

  4. In Tanner We Trust says:

    Need an early lead in this one. Would be ideal to go up 2-0 at half and get Martinez out.

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