Again this isn't a full match preview but just my thoughts heading into the 2nd match which could and probably see another Western Conference team advance to the Eastern Conference Final. For me it comes down to the simple fact that nothing that the Crew has done in the last two months of the season or in leg one has convinced me that they can shut down the C&C scoring machine.
Casey and Cummings are simply too good for the Crew to deal with, both were credited with assists on Pablo's goal, and the Rapids have only been shut out once since mid-July. The Crew however have shown that they can beat the Rapids, they did so 3-1 when the two faced off at Crew Stadium back in August. The downside for the Crew is they have only once shut out an opponent since Labor day, so to make up the goal differential in this series they will likely need multiple goals, they scored 2 or more in 14 of their 30 regular season matches this year.
There is no doubt that the loss of Will Hesmer in goal has impacted the Crew, but I think the injury to Emillio Renteria might have more of an impact on their struggles at the end of the season. His 5 goals and 1 assist in under 1,000 minutes of playing time showed that he is a force to be dealt with on offense and his partnerships towards the end of the year with Andres Mendoza, actually impressed me into believing that the Crew might just be a dangerous team. It was no surprise when they lost in Colorado, the Crew hadn't beaten a Western Conference team on the road all year and were just 4-6-5 overall against the West. It will take a special effort from GBS (Guillermo Barros Schelotto) this weekend, he was able to get two goals against RSL last year at home, but the Crew gave up 3 unanswered goals and lost the match and the series.
Colorado simply needs to do what they do, play fairly tight defense and try to cross balls into Omar Cummings or Conor Casey. It has worked almost all year long, so why change now. They know that Columbus will have to push forward early and try to level the series, so it should open up some great counter attacking chances for them. I think both Brian Mullan and Jamie Smith (if he is fit) will likely have some great chances to be dangerous in this one as so much attention will be played to the big forwards, and don't be surprised if a bit of "red fury" shows up as Jeff Larentowicz has twice found the back of the net against the Crew, and he had 4 goals during the regular season this year.
I think the Crew get an early goal but this one ends 2-1 for the Rapids, and sets up an all Western final in the Eastern Conference.
OFF MY SOAPBOX