The Union need to start winning. Can they do it when they take on Columbus Crew SC on Saturday night at Talen Energy Stadium?
The boys in blue haven’t been too successful so far in the young MLS season, with only one point after three matches played. They lost at home against Toronto FC on Opening Day. They can’t afford to let this become a trend. And it won’t be easy as they take on Columbus, who have 7 points after their first three matches. Not only do the Union need the three points, they would like to keep the the Crew from getting too far ahead in the standings.
Being as this match falls on a FIFA international week, the Union will get a break as the Crew will be missing a few key players who have been called into service for their respective national teams. Waylon Francis (Costa Rica), Justin Meram (Iraq), Wil Trapp (USA), and Gyasi Zardes (USA) will not be available for the Crew. On top of that, Columbus will be missing goalkeeper Zack Steffen, who has a minor knee injury.
The Union have their national team absences with Warren Creavalle (Guyana), Andre Blake (Jamaica), Cory Burke (Jamaica), and Derrick Jones (USA U-23) gone for the moment.
Also missing: Marco Fabian, whose red card suspension from the March 10 game at Kansas City was apparently extended for an extra match.
If you told me two weeks ago that Fabian would be missing this match, I would have been very unhappy about it. But after Brenden Aaronson’s excellent performance last week at the number 10 position, I don’t care anymore. Aaronson looked great, played fearlessly, positioned himself smartly, and even scored a goal. While Fabian didn’t play badly before his suspension, he didn’t look as exciting as Aaronson did last week. This will be Aaronson’s first home match, and the fans will welcome him as he steps on the pitch.
With Burke out, Kasper Przybylko on loan to Bethlehem Steel, and Sergio Santos out with a hip injury, David Accam should get the start aside Fafa Picault up top, assuming Jim Curtin sticks with a two-striker formation. But since he supposedly has “tactical flexibility” now, maybe he’ll go back to the 4-2-3-1 we are so used to watching? Not having Jones or Creavalle available complicates that possibility. If Curtin decides to go that route, I’d expect Alejandro Bedoya to fall back to the number 8 spot, with Ilsinho and Accam on the wings. We’ll also get a look at the Union’s number two goalkeeper Carlos Miguel Coronel for the first time in competitive action.
With Steffen out, the Crew will likely look to reliable MLS veteran Joe Bendik to take his place. With Hector Jimenez probably filling in for Francis, the Crew should not see a big drop off defensively. With Zardes out, we could see either Patrick Mullins or JJ Williams in at the striker position. Either one will be eager to put on a show. The Union are at full depth on defense, so hopefully they can shut down whichever Columbus forward gets the call.
With Columbus taking the bigger hit on international call-ups, and the Union playing at home, I like their chances to get their first win of the season.
Prediction: Union 2, Columbus 1