We all know the Vancouver side of the story last week: Uninspiring first half, Reo-Coker subs in at halftime, Caps are invigorated, goal scored - game over.
Looking over the stats for that match, one thing jumped out at me. The Caps had 13 attempts on goal, six of which were blocked. When 46% of your attempted shots are blocked, that's telling you something. What it tells me is that the Caps were snatching at pseudo opportunities and not being patient enough. Looking at the Opta results, it also tells me that Darren O'Dea and Jeremy Hall are pretty good at shot blocking.
Columbus pumped thee balls past Chivas keeper Dan Kennedy last weekend, but considering the state of the Goats, who one scribe best described as "an out of control dumpster fire", the triple was hardly more than what would be expected. Considering that it took Columbus a little over 50 minutes to pot their first goal, and that tallies two and three came very late (88' and 94') when Chivas was pressing hard to draw, some of the luster begins to come off the Columbus gold.
Still, Vancouver will need to be mindful of some of the Crew's assets.
Priority number one has got to be the captain of the Crew, Argentine forward Federico Higuain, who opened the scoring for the Crew last week with a marker that earned MLS Goal of the Week consideration. He joined Columbus mid-way through the 2012 campaign, notching 5 goals and 7 assists in just 13 matches, en route to taking the MLS Newcomer of the Year award. He's also the Crew's number one set piece guy, making him a double threat. And despite the scoring worry that he poses, he's more renowned as a playmaker in the withdrawn striker role in Columbus' 4-4-1-1. In short, the guy's dangerous. Oh yeah, I almost forgot to mention his pedigree: His brother Gonzalo seems to be doing rather nicely for himself in La Liga with Real Madrid.
Complementing Higuain up top is Jairo Arrieta. He had a relatively quiet match last week vs Chivas, but has spent a fair bit of time recently playing with the Costa Rican national team, so he's adjusting. The Caps' defence won't mind if he's still acclimatizing himself, as he has 9 goals in 19 MLS matches to date. Only having joined the Crew in July of last year, he still managed to earn a share of the team's Golden Boot award in 2012.
Speaking of Golden Boots, you can never discount any side that features midfielder Eddie Gaven. Where do I start with him? He's been with the Crew since 2006, the longest-serving member of the team, with the exception of Crew icon defender, Chad Williams. I was going to list Gaven's accomplishments, but my boss wouldn't free up the 14 terabytes needed, so you can check out a summary of his performance data here. Suffice it to say that he's the foreman in charge of the Crew when they're on site.
On the opposite side of the pitch you'll find speedster Dominic Oduro, now with Columbus after a couple seasons with the Chicago Fire. Maybe he's finally found a home after five clubs in the last eight seasons. He's an acceptable asset, not a great one, but he does have pace. Watch him pull away here, versus Chivas.
Centreback Chad Marshall is the pillar that the Columbus back line is built around. At 6' 4", 190 lbs, around is pretty much the only way anything goes with him blocking the way. He's 28, only a youngster by Whitecaps standards, but is now in his 10th season with the Crew. Can you say "experience"? With 224 matches played, and almost 20,000 minutes logged, he's the undisputed leader of the back four.
Size features strongly for the Crew back line, with the "smallest" being LB Tyson Wahl, at 6'2, 185. It'll be interesting to see how Martin Rennie chooses to approach this match. Does he go for the jinky attackers like Camilo Sanvezzo, who might be able to exploit defenders pulling a heavier load, or will we maybe see all 6' 4" of Tom Heinemann, no stranger to the Crew, on the bench today?
Either way, this shapes up to be an entertaining match.