The Montreal Impact come back home to face the Columbus, for the second time this season. The Black and Gold is looking to consolidate its playoff spot in the Eastern Conference whereas the Bleu-Blanc-Noir hopes to get a positive result to give more meaning to what it's trying to do on the pitch.
The last meeting between both clubs ended in a 2-1 win of the Crew in Columbus. Higuain and co. are coming off back to back wins, having scored seven goals and only conceding one.
1. It seems that the Columbus Crew has been through an overhaul at all levels from the organizational side of things down to the pitch. Is that the key to this year's current success?
Certainly. With last season's purchase of the team by Anthony Precourt and the Precourt Sports Venture, there was a different feel about this organization. Finally they have an owner who is dedicated to the team and he has continued to demonstrate that with his changes in the front office as well as renovating the locker rooms at the stadium and practice facility and upgrades around Columbus Crew Stadium.
With that brought the hiring of Gregg Berhalter as sporting director and head coach. Berhalter brought a style of play he thought would best fit this team and a desire to stick with that style. He added players - Michael Parkhurst, Steve Clark, Hector Jimenez, Giancarlo Gonzalez - who he felt would fit his system. After early success this season, a 3-0 start, Columbus came back to reality and struggled to get wins, but recently the Crew have started to really grasp the system and it has yielded some great results recently.
This all came from the top down.
a. Will the the loss of Giancarlo Gonzalez be a turning point for the club's playoff aspirations and in the long-term?
Berhalter doesn't seem to think so. When they made the announcement before last week's game with the Houston Dynamo, the head coach immediately pointed to MLS veteran Tyson Wahl, who played in the shutout win. The Crew have other options in the center of the defense as well, but none of them are one of the World Cup's best defenders.
I think they will be alright without Gonzalez, but will see a fall off in that position. He and Parkhurst had good chemistry together and really understood how to play Berhalter's game. With that said, the Black and Gold did play without him during the World Cup and only conceded nine goals in seven games.
b. I think that Federico Higuain is one of the best players in this league and one of the most underrated DP out there. Prove me wrong.
This simply can't be done.
There's plenty more where that came from.
3. What are the realistic objectives for the Crew as per MLS? Make the playoffs and make a run for it? OR is there a bigger long-term plan that is perceivable on the pitch?
For this year? The team wants to do as well as possible, obviously. The players and coaches have discussed making a push this year.
Realistically, Berhalter came to town with a three year plan to build this team in his image. I personally believe that is what sold Precourt on his pitch. He wants to build this team and that takes time. I think the club would be happy with a playoff appearance, as you never know what happens once you're in, but they know this is a process and any success in year one is a bonus.