On the last day of the season, Royal Salt Lake needed a win against Colorado to sneak into the playoffs. The Royals took care of business in astounding fashion with a 3-0 win over the Rapids. Nevertheless, despite RSL's latest form, Columbus are overwhelming favorites to take care of business against RSL. On MLSNet's "who has the edge" series vote, the Crew are receiving a 55%-38% percent edge at forward, 52%-41% edge in midfield, 62%-32% percent edge in defense, 48%-41% percent edge in goalkeeping, and an overall 64%-29% percent edge in the series. Further, Lalas's dog, Luis Bueno, and just about everyone else is picking Columbus. However, how high is confidence in the Crew camp? It's worth asking as Real Salt Lake has scored more goals in their last game against Colorado(3) compared to Columbus who has just scored a measly two goals in their last five games in October; one of those goals being a fluke from Padula and the other a rocket from Emilio Renteria.
Therefore, the Crew hasn't exactly been the Mannheim Steamroller from last year crushing everyone in their way, in route to the playoffs. There is a lot of hope amongst Crew fans that players, like Guillermo and Robbie Rogers, have an extra gear that they can turn on in the playoffs. Also, the Crew has the experience in the playoffs from last year. Yet, that second gear has not been revved in a while.
Marshall Likely To Start
Chad Marshall should help rev the stalling engine, as the Crew have not been the same on the offensive side of the ball without him. Offensive? Well, without the big defender the Crew cannot seem to score. Their dangerous-ness on set pieces is miniscule without him. The Crew relied on lots of diving for a while to make up for the loss of Marshall, but since the referees have caught on it has taken whirling dirbishes to score; like Padula's goal from 40 yards out that Reis misjudged.
But, the big guy should be back. From Shawn Mitchell's blog, Marshall on his progress:
"It’s looking that way. It's been a good week of training. I haven’t had any setbacks. We still have two days to go before the game but hopefully I can help out, take some drugs and get out there."
Who Starts at Forward?
From Shawn Mitchell's blog:
"Everybody has looked sharp, to be honest with you," Warzycha said. "We’ll see who we go with. Guillermo (Barros Schelotto) scored two goals today. Alejandro (Moreno) was busy. Steve (Lenhart) and Emilio (Renteria), too. Jason Garey played out of position for a bit but played in front at the end today. He's scored three goals against Salt Lake this year. It's going to be a tough decision.
Well, we all know Warzycha is going to go with Alejandro Moreno, even though it feels like Moreno hasn't scored or looked close to scoring in a century. I also have heard that some people are talking about starting Jason Garey, since Garey has had success against RSL. But, Garey also has had lifetime success against the New England Revolution and did not play until late in that meaningless game last Saturday. This is not a meaningless game. So, I'm not too sure the Crew should put all their eggs in the Garey basket; especially since Garey has not started or played for more than 10 minutes in a game since the Bash Brother days of late July.
Also, since the Crew are playing away in a playoff series, I would expect them to play one forward in front of Guillermo. The Crew will not play a three back line as the Crew do not have to win it all in Salt Lake. Their main goal is to squeak out a close win or at least a tie, as the Crew just need the better opportunity coming back to Columbus.
Since that is the case, I doubt that Warzycha will play Renteria or Lenhart alone up top. I wish Warzycha would play Renteria because to be honest he probably gives us our best chance. I also think that the Renteria and Lenhart combo in front of Guillermo gives us our best chance at home. But, we all know that it will likely be Moreno.
Don't get me wrong, Alejandro is a good soldier but you have to score as a striker no matter how great of a guy you are. Hopefully he does. He needs to be far more dangerous in the playoffs.
The Crew cannot come into Rio Tinto Stadium overconfident at all this year. RSL actually has the best record in MLS at home, even better than the Crew's this year. RSL has only lost once at home compared to the Crew's two. Further, players like Yuri Movsisyan, Robbie Findlay, Fabian Espindola, Will Johnson, Javier Morales, and Kyle Beckerman are no slouches.
The Crew have to keep with their assignments and mainly just survive in Salt Lake.
While Marshall is Probable, So Are Some Big Names For RSL
PROBABLE for RSL: MF Kyle Beckerman (L knee effusion); FW Robbie Findley (R shoulder sprain); MF Nelson González (L ankle sprain); MF Ned Grabavoy (illness).
You can bet though that those players and RSL are going to do everything in their power to get Beckerman and Findley at least on that field.
I think this would be the best lineup to give us the offense we need to maybe end this before Columbus, but keep us from being too vulnerable in the back.
Prediction: The Crew have definitely lacked focus, as of late, but Columbus has not been in a must win stituation in the last month in MLS. Everyone else has been stumbling, which meant that the Crew didn't really need to push into a second gear to gain the Supporters Shield. Sure, it would be better if the Crew were on a hot streak similiar to their form going into last year's playoffs. But, I feel the Crew will clamp down this week in practice and do what they have to do to get a result in RSL.
The Crew are the better team overall and will take care of business. I predict a 1-0 win for Columbus.