Monday, August 23, 2010

8/23/2010: Columbus Crew vs. Santos Laguna Preview- Group B Lead On Line

Without Andres Mendoza, who was rumored to be signed in part for his success against Mexican clubs for Morelia, the Crew will be instead with it's usual squad, minus some important starters, against Santos Laguna. Usual faces aren't a particularly bad thing, as the Crew regulars seem to be getting used to Mexican competition. The Crew's last two game series against Mexican competition was a 5-4 nailbiting series defeat against Toluca in last year's Champions League quarterfinal. Which was a much better home and away than the 5-nil thumping the Crew received in their two games in Group action against Mexican side Cruz Azul last year. Nevertheless, rumored signings Andres Mendoza and Alvaro Ormeno would have been nice to come a few weeks before this tilt, than a week or so after it.

But, even without reinforcements from abroad yet, there remains a chance that the Crew can pull of an upset comparable to the success Columbus found on the road in Saprissa last year. Especially since Santos isn't expected to play all their starters in this match; as names such as Oswaldo Sanchez, Daniel Luduena, and Christian Benitez are unlikely to play. In the same sense, the Crew who are more focused on gaining back first place in the Supporters Shield race (only 3 pts behind the L.A. Galaxy), will also only start half of their starting lineup. Vital players Guillermo Barros Schelotto, Chad Marshall, Gino Padula, and Danny O'Rourke all did not make the trip to Santos. However, the Crew may be able to afford to go with less starters in this year's group because second place is a good bet with the lack of quality of third and fourth place, Municipal and Joe Public.

Not having all starters isn't really a bad thing either. Especially since some have the opinion that a few current bench players such as Emilio Renteria, Steven Lenhart, Leandre Griffit, and Gino Padula have more quality then some current starters such as Jason Garey, Adam Moffat, Shaun Francis, and Andy Iro. Therefore, giving Renteria or Griffit a full 90 minutes may give the Crew more of a chance to win instead of less of a chance.

Santos prepares for Columbus.

The Crew will be without Guillermo Barros Schelotto, Chad Marshall, Gino Padula, or Danny O'Rourke in this game, so it could get a bit ugly. However, Frankie Hejduk will play in this rotation because he is suspended for Saturday's important match against F.C. Dallas. Also, it is likely Eddie Gaven, Emmanuel Ekpo, Emilio Renteria, and Leandre Griffit could all play big roles tomorrow.

The Predicted Starting Lineup:


Game Prediction: I'm hoping that Santos is as focused on the weekend as Columbus is and this one comes out to at least a 1-1 tie, but my mind is telling me 2-1 or 3-1 to Santos, who are a good Mexican club. Which is fine since Columbus should have an easy enough time securing second place in the group and a quarterfinal spot as Joe Public and Municipal are not that menancing.

Nowhere close to as tough of a group as it was last year with Cruz Azul, Saprissa, and Puerto Rico. So, maybe the Crew come into this one loose with no pressure and pull out another surprise victory.


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