D.C. United travel to the Buckeye state this weekend to face the Columbus Crew in the year's first rematch for each team. Here's what the B&RU staff think will happen out in Ohio. Be sure to let us know your predictions in the comments.
For Eddie Johnson, he has four games remaining with the Black-and-Red before the USMNT is called into camp on 14 May in preparation for the World Cup. Now is the time for him to score, and he will get chances in this match as the midfield continues to provide reasonable service. EJ finally finds the back of the net, and Chris Rolfe adds a second goal which is enough to give D.C. United the 2-1 win over the Crew as the defense only gives up one goal (but about a dozen chances). The defense's bend-but-don't-break strategy continues!
This is our first shot at revenge this year. I've never been more upset during a road trip than after the Scoreboard Fire of 2013, so our team decides to create their own flames this time. We get revenge for the opening game by winning on the road 2-0.
So if I have it right, D.C. has taken one point home from Columbus in 5 games dating back to 2007(!), and for as much as we all enjoy the current unbeaten streak, they still remain at the bottom of the Lig when it comes to putting shots on target and on goal and still have some questions about their offense. While I think D.C. gets a goal off a corner, the Crew gets two and wins 2-1.
Every week, I predict EJ will put one in. Every week, he does not. So let's alter the routine. Goals by Kitchen and Espindola. Dykstra lets one slip but otherwise has another phenomenal game. The Crew are asleep at the switch, thinking these are the same guys that they man-handled on March 8. They're not. And the Crew doesn't know what to do with Hurricane Rolfe. He was just a tropical storm with Chicago. DC wins, 2-1. Again, in case the soccer fates did not hear me earlier, EJ does not score.
What can Perry Kitchen do against Federico Higuain? The Crew star has either a goal or an assist in four of the five Columbus matches this year, and he scored two against DCU in the 3-0 win at RFK. This is probably the most important matchup on the field. The predictability of United's attack must change. Hitting inaccurate (16% success) long balls down the middle and almost completely neglecting the left side (9% of DCU shots come from there) has led to just one of United's five goals coming from open play. That said, on the road, against a team that beat us 3-0 already, I expect an even more defensive setup instead -- Jeffrey in for Espindola perhaps. 1-0 Columbus
Can Davy Arnaud and Perry Kitchen slow down Federico Higuain? It can't be any worse than last time. A 1-1 draw would be enough revenge for me, against a hot team that utterly thumped us in the opening game of the season.
The result comes down to whether United has a plan for containing Higuain, or if they let him freely stroll all over the park like the opening match of the season. I say United does, and they grind out a 1-0 win because of it. Bobby Boswell with the crucial goal.
Adam M Taylor
The last two weeks, I've predicted the Black-and-Red to win 1-0 on the back of an Eddie Johnson goal. The last two weeks, DC have claimed all three points. I am therefore refusing to change my prediction: EJ gets off the mark while Andrew Dykstra keeps his third straight clean sheet. Hell yes, I'm superstitious.
There's a more defensive setup for DCU these days with Arnaud in for Silva, plus more confidence after a rare pair of back-to-back wins. An out-and-out win might be asking too much against the Eastern Conference-leading Crew, but I'd say a 1-1 result isn't out of the question. I think that's what we'll see, too, as the Black and Red continue their recent upswing.
Columbus is really good, and they're not happy with themselves for letting a 1-0 lead turn into a 1-1 draw in San Jose last week. United's issues with tracking midfielders and outside backs making later runs is pretty much the last worst issue to have when facing the Crew, and I don't think a week was enough time to improve on that front. I don't expect to see Columbus rip us open like in the opener, but I still don't see a positive outcome here. Eddie Johnson will grab his first goal of the season heading in a corner kick, but the Crew will be up 2-0 at the time and they'll grab a third in the last few minutes. 3-1 Crew, Higuain with at least one goal.