1. So — red cards, huh? We've been there plenty of times, so we understand. How will the red cards for Jonathan Mensah and Lalas Abubakar affect your planning for RSL?
It's tough to say for sure, given that Crew SC will have played three games in a week and there wasn't much squad rotation on Wednesday. It's possible that Jonathan and Abubakar weren't going to be in Gregg Berhalter's plans anyway, but that's doubtful given his postgame outburst.
What it will likely mean is a return to the four-man backline, instead of the three in the back that appeared to be working well up until Wednesday's debacle. This means a more traditional look for Columbus under Berhalter. As for the ramifications of this match, it likely means the offense should flow a little better (although Federico Higuain remains out), but the defense will be susceptible.
The Black & Gold will surely try and play its possession-style, but the team has struggled to breakdown opponents that stay compact. It would be wise of RSL to put numbers behind the ball and counter when Crew SC give away possession, as Columbus have had issues home and away against teams that adopt that tactic.
2. A month ago, you'd be forgiven for not really worrying about RSL at all before this match. How's your confidence now? Has your estimation changed?
It certainly has changed. I think the results Real have gotten of late speak for themselves. Sure, the LA Galaxy isn't having the season the club is used to, but beating that side by four goals on the road is never an easy feat. The same is true in going to Portland and winning 4-1. Getting a draw at home over a pretty good Sporting Kansas City is also impressive.
Any team that is able to string together some results in MLS is a dangerous team, especially at home. While I would never disregard any MLS team because of the parody in this league, my antenna is certainly more raised for this game than it likely would have been a month ago.
3. Coaches are the talk of the league this week, with firings and hirings and everything between taking place. How are you feeling about Gregg Berhalter?
I think Gregg is doing a fine job with what he has. In four seasons, he's made the playoffs twice, including a run to the MLS Cup Final, and had one bad season when two of the team's highest paid players were hurt for much of the year and the other had to be traded. So far this season, the team has not been consistent, but has managed to stay above the playoff line for much of the year.
In addition, one of my colleague's at Massive Report, Patrick Guldan, recently tweeted a chart of points based on salary. Columbus have the seventh lowest salary, yet are above teams like Orlando, Seattle and the Galaxy.
Not that this will settle any debate on MLS team building, but the bars represent points and the series is sorted by compensation. pic.twitter.com/39Np5cCqaL— Patrick Guldan (@GuldanMR) July 26, 2017
The league is a changing place with the money some of these teams are spending and small market teams will have to figure out a way to adapt or fall behind. So far, Berhalter has done a good job of keeping Crew SC relevant and in the hunt and there's still time to get healthy and make a final push.
This is going to be a major guess given the cards and match congestion
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