In D.C. United's first bid for revenge this season, they take on the Columbus Crew in Columbus. To preview the game, we went back to our friend Pat Murphy from Massive Report for his take on the Crew so far this season.
Questions for Massive Report
B&RU: Since the Columbus Crew embarrassed D.C. United in early March, much has changed; what is different about the Columbus Crew?
MR: In terms of lineup, very little. The Crew has started just 12 players this season, with Dominic Oduro starting ahead of Jairo Arrieta after the first two games being the only change in the first XI this year. The team is still playing the same way, teams now have an idea of what to expect. I wouldn't say teams have figured the Black and Gold out, but there is less of an element of surprise.
I think the Crew are still trying to figure things out. After the opening win, there were signs of cracks in the armor against the Philadelphia Union and the Seattle Sounders. Columbus found ways to get wins, but this is still a team in transition learning from a new coach. Gregg Berhalter recently called the season "a process" and the Crew are in the early stages. They've continued to dictate games and gotten results in all but one outing, so things have gone well in the early stages.
B&RU: With their torrid start to the season, do you think that the Crew can sustain this pace?
MR: No, I think it would be very tough for anyone to sustain this pace. I recently wrote about how fast starts do not equate to trophies in MLS because I think fans here have forgotten how long the season is. Just look at how hot FC Dallas was last year before the wheels completely came off after two months of the season. There will be ups and downs throughout the course of the campaign, but what will be interesting is how this team responds to adversity. We got to see a small sample size of that after the loss to Toronto FC (team earned a road draw with the San Jose Earthquakes), but what about when things go south for an extended period? This may be the best start in team history, but they've also gone two games without a win...
I do think this team can do some nice things this year, but it's too early to say how nice.
B&RU: What happened in the game against one of the league's two worst teams, the San Jose Earthquakes? Should Giancarlo Gonzalez been suspended?
MR: The coaches and players were quick to point out in the lead up to the game that San Jose is one of the more respected teams in the league. Crew defender Josh Williams told me you don't get respect in this league unless you earn it and results hadn't gone the right way for the Earthquakes so far. I do buy it a little, having watched San Jose play multiple times, but I believe Columbus should have left with three points.
The first half was good but not great and the Crew led 1-0. It was a bad start to the second half that hurt the Black and Gold and five corners in five minutes against a big team like San Jose hurt them. Despite, being smaller Chris Wondolowski made a good run and got the equalizer. The Crew had a couple of opportunities, but the fire that was in the team's attack in the first few games wasn't there in the second half.
As for the Gonzalez play, I'm amazed it's received this much attention. Yes, it was a dive (and a bad one at that) but there are dives all over MLS. I think if you suspend Giancarlo, you open up a can of worms that the league doesn't want to deal with. If the league would have made an example of him, I would have understood, but I think a precedent would have been set on a player who has had no issues in the first four games of his MLS career.
B&RU: Projected lineup?
MR: I'll go 2-1 Crew.
Questions for Black and Red United
MR: Last time the Crew saw D.C. United, the Black and Red were walking off the field after a disappointing home opener. Now the team is riding a two game winning streak with two consecutive shutouts. What has changed for United over the last month? Is the chemistry starting to come together after all the offseason additions?
B&RU: There have been two main changes so far: time and Davy Arnuad. When we last saw the Crew, Davy Arnaud was starting as a wide midfielder and Luis Silva was starting as the point of the diamond. Since then, Silva has gotten hurt, Arnaud has moved inside, and D.C. United have traded for and started Chris Rolfe.
In the time department, the slew of new players that United have brought in have had time to learn each other. Over the past two games especially, Jeff Parke and Bobby Boswell have had time to learn each other's playing style, and this game against the Columbus Crew will be a good indication of have far they have progressed.
MR: Eddie Johnson is still yet to score for his new team. What has hindered him so far and are there any signs he could break out of his slump soon?
B&RU: The main thing that has hindered Eddie Johnson so far has been a lack of support from his midfield, especially early in the year. I'm not going to blame Luis Silva outright, because he may have needed time to gel with the forwards as much as they have needed it; however, coincidentally, the team has looked better since he has gone out with an injury. With Davy Arnaud looking even more comfortable in the middle, it may be some time before Silva can reclaim his starting spot.
MR: D.C. recently acquired Ohio-born Chris Rolfe from the Chicago Fire. What has he brought to the team in his first two games and what will he add going forward?
B&RU: Well, in his first game he scored the game-sealing goal, and in his second he was the man-of-the-match; therefore, I would say that Rolfe has had a giant impact on United so far. More particularly, he just looks like he has a new breath of life since he has left the Chicago Fire. Especially with the additional surgeries required by Chris Pontius, the trade for Chris Rolfe is one of the key offensive acquisitions this offseason. When/if Eddie Johnson goes with the USMNT to Brazil, Rolfe will become even more important.
MR: Projected lineup?
B&RU: 1-1 draw