The Columbus Crew return to MLS league action after a three-week break tonight as they travel to New England to take on the Revolution (7:30 pm).
New England are currently on 16 points for the season (5-7-1). Columbus sits two points above them in the East with a 5-4-3 record.
The extended time off from MLS play came at both a good and bad time for Columbus. The Crew’s injury list was longer than ever, but the were also undefeated in the past five league games, including three victories.
During the three-week period, the team had two chances to maintain fitness. The Dayton Dutch Lions left Columbus with a 2-1 victory against the Crew in the U.S. Open Cup on May 29th, and the Crew reserves defeated the Revolution reserves last Sunday at home, 1-0.
While some players have regained full fitness (Milovan Mirosevic), others have picked up injuries that will keep them out of action for the upcoming weeks (Dilly Duka). Midfielder Danny O’Rourke and defenders Chad Marshall are still dealing with their own injuries. Both Carlos Mendes and Julius James picked up knocks in the past week of training and likely won’t start. Expect to see the center of defense consisting of Josh Williams and Eric Gehrig.
This week’s attacking lineup could vary, depending on how Coach Warzycha wants the team to play. A more attacking formation would see Emilio Renteria and Olman Vargas start together up top, with Eddie Gaven and Justin Meram on the wings. Mirosevic and Kevan George will likely patrol the center of midfield.
For New England, French striker Saer Sene leads the team with seven goals already in 2012. Creative midfielders Benny Feilhaber and Shalrie Joseph are extremely dangerous no matter where they are on the field. Crew rookie George will have his hands full picking up those two from his defensive midfielder position.
Prediction: Crew 2-1 Revolution
The Crew have improved their quality of play in the past few weeks, including picking up their first ever win against the Sounders away, 2-0. Renteria and Meram are both hitting their stride in the attacking third. Injuries may still be running rampant, but Columbus’ starting XI should still be strong enough to come home with a very valuable three away points.