ANOTHER TEST AGAINST EASTERN CONFERENCE-LEADING IMPACT ...
Saturday’s match is the third meeting between the two teams this year and a third test against an Impact side that has sat atop the Eastern Conference ahead of both tilts in 2013 ... the Crew has secured crucial points against the Impact and will look to do the same on Saturday against the current conference leaders with the Black & Gold five points out of the fifth-place spot in the Eastern Conference playoff chase.
... AND A CHANCE TO TAKE A REGULAR-SEASON SERIES
A win in Montreal would also mark the Crew’s third regular-season series victory in 2013 ... with a 2-0 win over Toronto on August 17, the Crew secured its second regular-season series victory following a pair of victories against D.C. United (2-0-0): a March 23 win at RFK Stadium (2-1) and a 3-0 win on April 27 at Crew Stadium.
A FINAL TRIP NORTH OF THE BORDER
Saturday’s trip to Montreal is the Crew’s fifth and final trip to Canada in 2013 and 14th overall regular-season match north of the border ... although the Black & Gold fell to Toronto on July 27, the Crew has secured points in 10 of the 13 previous meetings up North and is 4-3-6 in those Canadian-hosted matches ... Columbus is 3-1-5 in nine matches at Toronto FC, has a 1-1-0 record at Vancouver and the Crew’s 1-1 draw at Montreal on April 13 improved the Crew’s record at Montreal to 0-1-1 ... additional Ohio ties to Canada include rookie defender Drew Beckie who was born in Regina, Saskatchewan.
Despite playing in shutouts in the last six matches (three shutout wins, three shutout losses) dating back to August 10, the Crew does have a bit of history on its side headed into Montreal this weekend looking for its first victory at Stade Saputo. In the two previous all-time meetings at Stade Saputo in which the Crew has gone 0-1-1, the Black & Gold have found the back of the net once each time, giving the visitors a chance to perhaps make it shutouts in the last seven matches by adding another cleansheet win.
Saturday’s match will also be another first for Brian Bliss as his side heads north of the border. When Bliss took over as Interim Head Coach of Kansas City in 2006, MLS had yet to introduce a Canadian-based club into the League. Toronto joined the next year in 2007 and Vancouver (2011) and Montreal (2012) have followed suit, meaning this week’s clash will be Bliss’ first match coached against a Canadian opponent in MLS as well as first trip to Canada as Crew boss.
Tuesday night’s U.S. Men’s National Team win in the 2014 FIFA World Cup Qualifier against Mexico was among the top Crew Stadium soccer attendances of all time. The announced attendance of 24,584 was the fourth largest attendance for all Crew Stadium soccer matches and third largest U.S. Men’s National team attendances held at the home of the Black & Gold. The crowd helped give the Americans the crucial qualifying victory in a historic fourth “Dos a Cero” win against rival Mexico.
CREW OPENS BRIAN BLISS ERA WITH A WIN
Less than two days after being appointed Interim Head Coach, Brian Bliss led the Crew to a 2-0 victory on Wednesday night in his first match as Crew boss on the sidelines ... said Bliss postgame, “You’re always happy and you’re always sad when you win and you lose -- technical director or coach. Obviously when you’re coaching you have a little bit more invested in the game for the 90 minutes than when you do when you’re sitting up in the box as a Technical Director. But the losses and the wins hurt and feel as good in both positions but you have a little more invested in it and little less in the voice box.”
FINISHING A BUSY STRETCH
The Black & Gold complete a stretch of three matches in eight days as the Crew travels to Kansas City for Saturday’s tilt ... previously in this stretch, the Crew lost 1-0 to Seattle on August 31 before Wednesday night’s 2-0 victory over Houston its final midweek match of 2013.
SHUTOUTS FOR, AGAINST A TREND IN LAST FIVE TILTS
Since a 3-1 loss at Houston on August 3, the Crew has played five consecutive matches in which one team was shut-out ... in addition to Wednesday’s 2-0 win over Houston, on August 10 and August 17, the Black & Gold kept the Red Bulls and Toronto FC off of the scoreboard respectively in 2-0 wins ... following the win over the Reds, the Crew suffered a two-match losing streak which saw a reversal of goal-scoring fortune as the Crew was shut-out 4-0 on August 24 at Real Salt Lake and a 1-0 loss to Seattle on August 31.
Wednesday night was a career night for Crew forward Ryan Finley, who recorded his first career goal and assist in just his second start. Finley had been previously robbed of a goal in the team’s meeting with Houston on August 3 when a shot was ruled an own goal, but Finley would not be denied on Wednesday night when the Dynamo were in Columbus. Finley became the fourth Crew player this year to record their first MLS goal, joining Ben Speas, Glauber and Matias Sanchez.
For the second time this season, midfielder/defender Kevan George has been called-up for international duty with Trinidad & Tobago ahead of an international tournament – the OSN Cup – held September 5-9 in Saudi Arabia. George previously made three starts in the 2012 Olympic Qualifying run with Trinidad & Tobago’s Under-23 squad. Two also represents the number of Crew matches he’ll miss in total as he’ll be unavailable Saturday at KC after missing Wednesday’s 2-0 win over Houston.
Eight of the team’s nine victories this season have resulted in shutout performances for the Crew backline. In fact, the last seven Crew victories have been shutout performances including recent wins against Portland (1-0) on July 7, New York (2-0) on August 10, Toronto FC (2-0) on August 17 and Wednesday’s 2-0 win over Houston. The lone victory that came with an opponent goal was March 23 in a 2-1 win at D.C. United.
Plenty of two-goal performances have led to strong results for the Crew this year. The Crew is now unbeaten (4-0-0) this season at home when scoring two goals in a match. Away from Crew Stadium, the Black & Gold are 1-1-1 when scoring two goals.
A HOMEGROWN PLAYER RECORD FOR BLACK & GOLD
Chad Barson, Matt Lampson, Ben Speas and Wil Trapp set a Black & Gold record on August 24 against Real Salt Lake by merely being a part of Head Coach Robert Warzycha’s starting lineup ... the quartet of Homegrown Players marked the first time in Crew history that four Homegrowns started a match for the club ... the addition of Ben Speas to the starting lineup trumped a previously set record of three Homegrown Players on July 7 against Portland.
A DIFFERENT CENTRAL MIDFIELD LOOK
With Bernardo Anor out with right hamstring tightness, Head Coach Robert Warzycha made alterations to his central midfield lineup last match at Real Salt Lake ... after using Anor in a central attacking midfielder role on August 10 and August 17, Warzycha placed Danny O’Rourke alongside Wil Trapp ... the start for O’Rourke was his first in central midfield since June 29 at Sporting KC ... O’Rourke made five con- secutive starts from July 4-August 3 at centerback before missing the match against New York (August 10) as a pre-game scratch with back problems ... he returned to action with a substitute appearance in the midfield against Toronto (August 17).
A CHANCE FOR OTHERS TO STEP UP IN THE CAPTAIN’S ABSENCE ...
With Federico Higuain out for two matches, the Crew will rely on other players to step in to fill the void left by the club captain ... should rookie Ryan Finley get the nod, the forward would be ready for his first MLS start following a hat-trick performance in Tuesday’s Reserve League match in a 3-1 win over FC Dallas ... other options include bringing Dominic Oduro back up top after a recent stretch of matches on the right wing ... of course, the club could also leave Jairo Arrieta up front and employ another midfielder in the attack ... with plenty of options for Head Coach Robert Warzcyha, the Crew looks to find its first goal not scored by Higuain since July 27 -- a Dominic Oduro tally at Toronto.
Chad Marshall started his 240th career match last Saturday in the tilt against Toronto FC. Marshall, also a member of the 20,000 minutes club (21,382), became the 15th defender all-time to join a list of players that have made 240 or more career regular- season starts and recorded 20,000+ minutes of action. That list of 38 total field players features six active defenders. Marshall has made 20 starts this season for the Crew and leads that list of six active defenders as the only player that has averaged 20 or more starts in a season for 10 consecutive seasons. In fact, in his 10-year career, Marshall (to date) has averaged 24 starts a season -- all with the Black & Gold.
With back-to-back matches of two goals, Federico Higuain has made his way up the club’s charts for multiple-goal games. In fact, Higuain’s fourth multiple-goal game in 37 career matches ties him with Guillermo Barros Schelotto for sixth on the list as Schelotto had four multiple-goal games in 102 career games. Stern John leads all Crew players with 12 multiple goal games in just 55 contests and Pipa now trails Dante Washington’s fifth-place spot by just a single multiple-goal game. Washington recorded five multiple-goal performances in 76 matches.
Danny O’Rourke is less than a match away from moving up the club’s all-time list for regular-season minutes played. Entering this weekend, O’Rourke is eighth on the list with 12,074 minutes played for the Black & Gold, trailing Robert Warzycha by 75 minutes for seventh on the list. A 76-minute performance would give O’Rourke sole possession of the seven spot. In his nine-year career that included stops in San Jose (2005) and New York (2006), O’Rourke has recorded 15,524 career minutes of regular- season action in 185 appearances. He’s still looking for that elusive first career goal, but has nine career assists.
PIPA IN AUGUST
With two more matches remaining this month, it’s scary to think how many goals Higuain may have to his name in the month of August ... after all, following his arrival to the Crew in August 2012 and exploding onto the scene, Higuain has made this month his most successful one ... in seven games played in his Crew career in August, Pipa has seven goals and four assists, averaging a goal per game and 0.57 assists per game ... from March all the way through October, there is not a single month of the season in which Higuain has gone without contributing at least an assist.
A YEAR UNDER HIS BELT
August 19 marked the one-year anniversary of Federico Higuain’s first match in MLS with the Crew ... in a 365-day span, Higuain has had a busy year ... per MLS, his 14 goals in that span are tied for fifth most in MLS (with Jack McInerney) and his 12 assists are tied with Robbie Keane and Sebastien Le Toux for best in MLS.
LAMPSON GETTING IT DONE...
Matt Lampson made his fourth overall start on the season on August 17 in place of Andy Gruenebaum ... Lampson now has back-to-back shutouts in consecutive starts ... the effort was his third career shutout and third clean sheet of the 2013 campaign ... in his three starts at Crew Stadium this year, Lampson is 3-0-0 with a 0.00 goals against average and three shutouts.
... AND THE 23-YEAR-OLD ‘KEEPER CLIMBS THE CLUB CHARTS
With his third career shutout in his fifth career start, Matt Lampson climbed up the Crew’s all-time goalkeeping charts ... his three career shutouts are now in sole possession of 10th place on the club’s list, passing Bo Oshoniyi who had two shutouts in 13 appearances.
PLENTY OF ONE-GOAL GAMES IN THE SERIES
The last five meetings between the Crew and Toronto FC have resulted in one-goal affairs ... the Crew is 4-1-0 in those matches and has shut-out Toronto twice in those matches ... the contests have been close, though, as the Crew has scored two goals twice in those four matches and have been held to single goals three additional times.
LOOKING FOR BACK-TO-BACK WINS
The Black & Gold will try to accomplish something they haven’t been able to do all season -- capture back-to-back victories ... although the club won the last match of the 2012 season and the first tilt of 2013, the last time the team won back-to-back contests was last season on August 29, (2-1 win) at Philadelphia and September 1, (2-1 win) against Montreal.
Federico Higuain scored two goals against New York on August 10, as the Designated Player recorded his third career brace and first since October 28, 2012 at Toronto in the 2012 season finale ... Higuain’s sixth and seventh goals this season pull the Argentine closer to the team lead for goals this year, trailing only Dominic Oduro (nine goals).
... AND THE CAPTAIN IS MONEY FROM THE SPOT
With his penalty kick goal on Saturday against New York, Federico Higuain is now 5-for-7 from the spot this year ... his five converted goals ties a single-season club record, tying Guillermo Barros Schelotto (2010, 5) and Andres Mendoza (2011, 5) ... Higuain is now third on the club’s all-time list for career penalty kick goals with six overall (five in 2013), trailing Schelotto (13), Brian McBride (11) and Jeff Cunning- ham (8) ... Higuain also set a new single-season career high in goals with seven now through 23 matches ... he scored five goals in just 13 appearances in 2012 after joining the Black & Gold halfway through the campaign.
DOWN TO TWO CLUBS THAT ARE NOT SEEING RED...
Through the first 23 matches this season, the Black & Gold have benefitted from smart soccer and a shortage of send-offs ... in fact, the Crew is one of two remaining teams in MLS this year -- joining D.C. United -- that have not been issued a red card ... last season through 23 matches, the Crew was issued just one red card: a Cole Grossman straight red in the 19th match of the season at Sporting KC on July 28, 2012.
... AND CHASING A RED CARD FAMINE RECORD
If the Crew can continue to avoid an ejection, the club could be on its way to matching a club record for fewest red cards in a season ... the record of zero ejections -- set in a 32-match season in 1999 -- has been relatively untouched in the years since ... the closest the team has come to matching the record were four seasons with two red cards (2000, 2003, 2004, 2012) ... on the flip-side of the ejection argument, the club record for most red cards in one season -- seven in 2009 -- for now seems to be safe for another campaign.
With a 1-0 Crew win on May 18 followed by a 2-1 Toronto win on July 27, the regular-season series enters Saturday split 1-1-0 ... the team awarded the Trillium Cup presented by Scotts will be the team with the greatest number of points (3 points for a win, 1 point for a tie, 0 points for a loss) after the conclusion of the regular season series between the two clubs ... in the event that two teams finish the season series with an equal number of points, the following system will be used to break the tie:
- The team with the greater goal difference (goals-for minus goals-against) in Trillium Cup matches shall be the winner. [Entering Saturday: Crew: 2GF-2GA=0, TFC: 2GF-2GA=0].
- If still tied, it shall be the team scoring the greater number of total goals in Trillium Cup matches [Entering Saturday: Crew: 2GF=2, TFC: 2GF=2].
- If still tied, the procedures described in 1 and 2 shall be applied only to a per-game average of all Trillium Cup games played on the road [Entering Saturday: Crew: 2 road goals, GPG= 1.00, TFC: N/A].
- If still tied, the procedures described in 1 and 2 shall be applied only to a per-game average of all Trillium Cup games played at home [Entering Saturday: Crew: N/A, TFC, 2 home goals, GPG= 1.00].
- If still tied, it shall be the team with the fewest combined team disciplinary points in Trillium Cup matches [Entering Saturday: Crew: 4 yellows, TFC: 4 yellows].
- If still tied, the team that is currently in possession of the Trillium Cup from the previous year retains it for another season [Entering Saturday: Crew].
WHAT IT ALL MEANS
A win captures the Trillium Cup presented by Scotts for either team ... that said, should the match end in a draw, fans should look at the final scoreline to determine which club gets the trophy ... if the match ends in a 0-0 draw, then technically tie-breaker scenario three states that the per-game goal-scoring average on the road is applied, and the Crew’s 1.00 per/game average would top the one match of zero goals on the road for the Reds, giving the Crew the trophy ... a 1-1 draw would bring TFC’s road goal average back to a level playing field, meaning tie-breaker four (home goals per game average) would be applied, however, the Crew’s one home goal in this scenario would match Toronto’s 1.00 home goals per game average (zero on May 18, two on July 27), forcing tie-breaker five -- which is disciplinary points ... both teams enter Saturday with four cautions a piece in the current series
WHAT ABOUT A 2-2 or 3-3 DRAW?
While a 0-0 draw gives the Crew the regular-season victory on technicalities and 1-1 draw would send the tie-breaker down the line of scenarios [potentially leading to a look at disciplinary points], should Saturday bring a barnburner draw to Crew Stadium, a 2-2 draw or a 3-3 draw would actually work against the Crew in its quest to retain the Trillum Cup in Columbus for another year ... two or three road goals for Toronto would then become their road goals average, giving them the advantage in tie-breaker three scenario of goals per game on the road.
Saturday’s victory over New York was Head Coach Robert Warzycha’s 69th career regular-season win as Crew boss. Warzycha’s next victory will be his 70th regular-season win, an important coaching milestone in MLS. Only 13 other coaches since 1996 have recorded 70 regular-season wins in their coaching career, and only four active coaches in the League have 70 or more wins (Sigi Schmid, 182; Bruce Arena, 154; Dominic Kinnear, 123; and Jason Kreis, 86). A 70th win for Warzycha would also tie the coach with Tom Fitzgerald (1996-2001) for most wins as a Head Coach of the Black & Gold as Fiztgerald won 70 games in 144 contests as the man on the sideline.