Scouting Report: Columbus Crew

Carl Valentine takes a look at the Crew

On Wednesday, our Vancouver Whitecaps FC return to play in front of their home fans, as they host Columbus Crew on Bell Pitch at Empire Field (7 p.m. PT, watch live on TSN and Bell mobile devices, listen live on TEAM 1410 radio and teamradio.ca).

This is a revenge game for our 'Caps, as we lost earlier in the year at Columbus Crew Stadium by a score of 2-1. It was a game that Vancouver controlled in the first half by containing the Crew and limiting them to very few chances. The second half was a different story, though, with a couple of costly turnovers sending us to defeat. That’s what head coach Tom Soehn has challenged his team to do from here on out, to put in a complete 90-minute performance. If the ‘Caps can do that, they will be very successful.

Coming off a 2-0 loss against FC Dallas this past weekend, Columbus Crew were handed what was described by some as their worst defeat of the season. Captain Chad Marshall said “it was a bad game on our part. We just did not put it together”. Columbus gave up 26 shots to Dallas and two second-half goals. In the process, they also lost three players for Wednesday’s tilt against our Whitecaps FC: midfielders Emmanuel Ekpo (caution points accumulation) and Rich Balchan (groin), and defender Andy Iro (red card).

Eastern Conference teams have found it very difficult to get results in MLS when they’ve travelled to the west coast, so our Whitecaps FC will need to capitalize on a potential travel-weary side. They should also take a page out of the FC Dallas win. Dallas really ran at this Columbus team and caused them all kinds of problems. The Crew defence was very square at the back, allowing the FC Dallas attack to continue to exploit them to get players breaking through on goal.

For most of the season, the Crew have played a 4-4-2 formation. They have a very athletic team that likes to play a high tempo kind of game, which they might have to change against Vancouver with the players they have missing from the team. In goal, Columbus have Will Hesmer, who had 11 shutouts last year in MLS and is showing his consistency again this season. He will have to be at his best against the ‘Caps, as Marshall will be without Iro by his side, his regular centre back partner in middle of the backline. The biggest concern for the Crew will be in the midfield, where the 6-foot-0 Balchan and 6-foot-2 Ekpo would have been able to use their size and athleticism to gain an advantage. As mentioned, they will both be missing for this match, which will be to Vancouver’s liking.

Up front, the Crew have no such problems, as Andres Mendoza is in terrific form. Before their game on the weekend, he had scored six goals in seven games. His seven total goals leave him second in the league in scoring. He is a strong, quick striker who will make you pay if given the opportunity, so the ‘Caps will have to keep very close tabs on him.

Whitecaps FC are coming off a disappointing week, but we must keep in mind the very impressive result we got at Empire Field the last time we were home, beating Philadelphia Union - one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference - by a score of 1-0. Playing in front of our fantastic crowd again could be just the tonic the boys need to kick-start a winning run that is needed to propel us nearer to a playoff spot.

Whitecaps FC fans also have the option of purchasing two exciting new match packs. Starting at just $159, the match pack options - GOING HOLLYWOOD and LOVE THY NEIGHBOUR? - both include the Manchester City FC friendly match, valued at $60, and four coveted MLS matches. For additional information on match packs, visit whitecapsfc.com/matchpacks.