Ten goals in two matches. Six points and only one goal conceded. The Columbus Crew h played pretty well over the last two weeks.
The Crew returns to action this Saturday after back-to-back wins, as the team travels to face D.C. United on Saturday night. This matchup at Audi Field is the second meeting between the Eastern Conference rivals this season. The previous meeting came in Columbus for the Crew’s home opener. That ended in a 2-0 victory for the Black & Gold.
Columbus looks for the team’s first road win of the season on Saturday night, while D.C. searching for the team’s first victory since the first game of the year in this matchup.
Here’s everything you need to know for the renewal of one of MLS’s oldest rivalries.
DC United at a Glance:
Record: 1-2-3, 5 points
League Form: D-L-L-D-L
Leading Scorer: Christian Benteke (3)
Assist Leader: Mateusz Klich (2)
Player to Watch: Mateusz Klich
Klich has been excellent since joining United this season. The 32-year-old Polish midfielder joined after an extensive career in Europe, including a long spell with Leeds United in the English Premier League and Championship.
The player makes his living in the central midfield, disrupting play defensively and opening up the D.C. attack going forward. Klich’s knack for crunching tackles and incisive passes makes him one of the best central midfielders in MLS so far in 2022.
In addition to his ability in and out of possession, Klich has impacted D.C. in the attack as well with one goal and two assists through six matches. The Crew’s midfield has also been excellent this year, making this a matchup to watch on Saturday.
How DC United plays:
Under head coach Wayne Rooney, United has pivoted quite a bit in from the team’s tactical setup compared to previous manager Hernan Losada.
Under Rooney, D.C. has been much more possession based than under Losada. Rooney typically sets his side up in a 4-4-2 formation. However, when United is in possession, the formation functions more like a 4-3-3, pushing players into the attack.
Defensively, Rooney has changed from Losada as well. Under Losada, D.C. was a high pressing energetic side. By contrast, Rooney has his team defending in more of a mid-to-low block to emphasize their defensive shape and be more difficult to break down.
Neither of these two strategies worked particularly well last time out against Columbus. It will be interesting to see what changes, if any, Rooney makes to face the Crew the second time around.
How the Crew can win:
The recipe for the Black & Gold over the last two matches has been to maintain possession, pin the opponents back and move the ball from side to side until the Crew can make an incisive pass forward. Columbus has also been really good in attacking transition. None of that is going to change in this matchup.
Since United doesn’t typically press high, it should be pretty simple for the Crew to keep possession of and move the ball. Thus, the Black & Gold’s forward passing in between D.C.’s defensive lines will be really important. Players like midifelders Darlington Nagbe and Aidan Morris as well as the center backs will have to continue to be really good at playing these forward passes again on Saturday.
Columbus will also have to continue to be sharp in attacking and defensive transition. The Crew has been really dangerous recently when the team wins the ball going forward. The Black & Gold have been excellent in playing their wide players into space in transition to allow for the rest of the team to join in the attack and stretch their opponent’s backline. Since the Crew pushes so many numbers into the attack, the Black & Gold will always be vulnerable to the counter attack. Even in the dominant 4-0 win last week, Columbus allowed Real Salt Lake a few half chances in transition.
With the likes of attackers Christian Benteke and Taxi Fountas, the Crew cannot afford to allow United similar opportunities this Saturday.