Know Your Enemy: Columbus Crew

FCD returns to MLS action after World Cup break at Columbus

It may seem hard to believe it but Major League Soccer is back in action now that the group stage at the 2014 World Cup is over.

FC Dallas is back on the road for the second straight game as they take on Pioneer Cup rivals Columbus Crew.

The Crew enter this game with a 4-5-6 record on the season. First year manager Gregg Berhalter’s side raced out the gate to three straight wins but has only picked up a single win (a 2-0 win over Chicago last month) since the beginning of April.

Columbus also lost in the midweek to Chicago in the fifth round of the US Open Cup in overtime.

This is the only meeting between the two clubs this season. Last year Columbus won the only meeting in Frisco, a 4-2 result. FC Dallas has struggled over the years at Crew Stadium, only posting a single win back in 2007 and a 1-11-6 record.

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Injury Watch

Berhalter has two players listed as out for this game. Backup keeper Brad Stuver and Homegrown defender Matt Wiet are both sidelined with long-term injuries.

The bigger question surrounds playmaker Federico Higuain (hamstring) and Homegrown midfielder Wil Trapp (knee). Those two, along with Agustin Viana and Matt Lampson, missed Wednesday’s US Open Cup match against Chicago. 

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Key Matchups

Andres Escobar vs Bernardo Anor - Escobar has been on an big run as of late, scoring in three of his last four competitive matches. FCD will want to keep him hot while the Crew will need to find a way to bottle him up and limit what he is able to do on the wings.

Jairo Arrieta vs Stephen Keel - The Costa Rican forward missed out on a trip to Brazil, and FCD should expect to see him with some extra motivation, given how well his country has played in this World Cup. Keel will have to contain him in the attack, especially if Higuian isn’t available.

Key Player for San Jose

Federico Higuain - The Argentine playmaker continues to be the guy in the Ohio capital. He currently leads the Crew with six goals on the season and is always a constant threat to score from anywhere on the field. The bigger question remains to be seen if the World Cup break was long enough for him to get over a hamstring injury that he picked up earlier this month as he missed Wednesday's U.S. Open cup match.

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Projected Lineup

Berhalter has stuck with a 4-2-3-1 formation that sometimes resembles a 4-3-3.

GK: Steve Clark, RB: Michael Parkhurst, CB: Eric Gehrig, Tyson Wahl, LB: Bernardo Anor, RDM: Tony Tchani, LDM: Agustin Viana, RM: Ethan Finley, CM: Ben Speas, LM: Hector Jimenez, F: Jairo Arrieta

Keys to three points

Columbus has really struggled over the last three months in league play. Either it has been due to injuries, suspensions or just poor form, the Crew haven’t been able to really get back to their hot start in March that saw them win three straight.

For FCD to come away with a rare win in Columbus, they need to remain disciplined, spread out the Crew on the wings and continue to feed the hot feet of Andres Escobar.

Escobar has scored three goals in his last four competitive matches and the big reason for that is how smart he has been playing from the wings. Dallas will want to find him in space and allow him to isolate defenders one-on-one.

FCD has to defend like a team in this game as well to limit what the playmakers of Columbus can do in the final third. While they have struggled in recent weeks, they still have talented players like Higuain and Arrieta, who can cause a lot of issues for any team.