Unlike the last time the Crew visited the Nation's Capital, the Black & Gold will be squaring-off with D.C. United under near-perfect weather conditions instead of temperatures in the upper-90s with 55-percent humidity tonight. A comfortable 61-degrees is expected at kickoff.
Different from most road matches, Robert Warzycha will have his entire roster to choose from tonight as the reserves arrived in Washington this morning for tomorrow's Reserve League finale.
Centerback Julius James did not make the trip after suffering a hamstring injury this week in training, forcing Warzycha to shuffle his back line against United. James had started the last five matches alongside Chad Marshall in central defense. Danny O'Rourke, Josh Williams, Eric Gehrig, and the newly-healthy Carlos Mendes are all viable options to replace the injured Trinidad & Tobago defender.
The Crew and D.C. United have split 1-0 results in their previous two matches in 2012, with the home team prevailing in both fixtures.
What are your predictions for tonight's match? Can the Black & Gold pick up a crucial three points on the road to stay in the playoff hunt?
On a beautiful morning in the Nation's Capital, the Crew began its day with breakfast followed by a team walk through Washington's Dupont Circle neighborhood. The Black & Gold finished their walk with a stretch at a nearby park.
Now, the players will spend the afternoon preparing at the team hotel before heading to RFK Stadium for tonight's pivotal Eastern Conference showdown with D.C. United. The team feels fully prepared for tonight's match, which holds major playoff implications for both sides.
"[Preparation] started Monday for me. It starts early in the week. If you prepare during the week, then the game comes easy," veteran Danny O'Rourke said.
"It's time to relax, and then it's like riding a bike. It all comes naturally."
Photos from this morning's walk can be found below.
Following the Crew's pivotal Eastern Conference clash with D.C. United on Saturday night, the Black & Gold reserves will look to secure their second-consecutive MLS Reserve League East Division title on Sunday morning against United's reserves. It is sure to be a massive weekend for all 28 active players on the Crew roster.
"It's a big deal," rookie Ethan Finlay said. "In all honesty, I think our whole team is very focused. Guys that aren't even maybe close to the gameday 18 or haven't been all season, are very focused this week. We're excited. We want to win the League and be back-to-back champions. The older guys have made sure we know it's important."
Last year, the Crew's Reserve League success was anchored by Josh Williams in central defense and Andy Gruenebaum in goal. Both have been key contributors in the Black & Gold's push for the 2012 MLS Cup Playoffs.
Head Coach Robert Warzycha says his team's Reserve League accomplishments demonstrate how deep of a team he has at his disposal.
"We can see in the First Team how many guys have actually started a game for us this season, it's a lot. It means we can count on everybody," Warzycha explained. "Everybody is bringing something different to the table. When they're called upon, they perform."
The Crew reserves kick off against D.C. United at 10:00 a.m. ET at D.C. United's training grounds at RFK Stadium.
This week, we take a trip down memory lane to Julius James' days as a UCONN Husky. The Trinidad & Tobago-born defender was a standout on the Storrs campus, becoming a First Team All-American in his senior season to go with three consecutive Big East Defender of the Year awards.
However, it's not James' prowess on the soccer field that brings us this post, it's the defender's amazing head of hair.
During his time in MLS, James has subsribed to the "Bald is Beautiful" belief, but for this week's Throwback Thursday we remember the JJ with hair.
Much like the First Team, the Crew Soccer Academy had the week off from action. However, that doesn't mean the week was news-free on the Crew Youth front.
Coming off a second-place at the AGS Cup in Spain, the United States U-17 National Team will travel to Argentina this week for a four-team tournament that includes Chile, Panama, and host Argentina. Prior to the tournament, CSA products Benny Swanson, Carter Richardson, and Ahinga Selemani will play Uruguay in a friendly on October 21. When the tournament concludes, the US will play another friendly against an opponent that is yet to be determined.
On the college stage, several Crew Youth Alumni saw action this week. Here are some of the highlights:
Akron Zips (9-1-2) This Week: 2-0 W at Penn State, 2-0 W at Northern Illinois
The Zips recorded a pair of road shutouts this week against Penn State and Northern Illinois. Five Crew Youth alumni are regular feature's in Caleb Porter's lineup as Akron hopes to challenge for its second College Cup title in three years.
Xavier Musketeers (8-0-3) This Week: 2-2 D vs. Dayton
The Musketeers remained undefeated over the weekend, tying in-state and conference rival Dayton 2-2 at home. Will Walker scored his fifth goal of the season in the draw, finishing off a long ball from his twin brother Matt.
Boston College Golden Eagles (7-3-3) This Week: 1-0 W vs. Dartmouth, 0-0 D vs. Clemson
Senior captain Justin Luthy posted his third and fourth shutouts of the season last week as Boston College beat Dartmouth and drew ACC opponent Clemson. Luthy has not given up a tally in his last 403 minutes in goal for the Golden Eagles.
UCLA Bruins (9-2-2) This Week: 4-3 W at. San Diego State
Matt Wiet helped the fourth-ranked Bruins rebound from last week's loss to Washington, captaining UCLA to a 4-3 win over San Diego State. Wiet and the Bruins will be idle this week as the team's next match comes October 26 on the road against Oregon State.
America's hardest working mascot, Crew Cat, joined fellow Columbus mascots Brutus Buckeye and Stinger in rappeling the PNC Building in downtown Columbus to promote "Over the Edge for Kids' Sake," an initiative run by Big Brothers Big Sisters.
Though his nine lives apparently flashed before his eyes, Crew Cat made it to the bottom safely and will be back in action on October 28 for Fan Appeciation Day as the Crew takes on Toronto FC.
You never know what you will find in the offices at Crew Stadium.
This promotional shield of Chad Marshall was used in the Crew's 2005 marketing plan. The photo was taken during the Black & Gold's 1-1 draw with the NY/NJ MetroStars on August 29, 2004, Marshall's rookie season.
But if you look closer, you'll see Chad is playing against a beardless, 17-year-old Eddie Gaven. The two Crew veterans took a trip down memory lane upon being shown the photo.
"It looks like in this picture, I tried to beat Chad and he won the ball," Gaven said. "I have a look in my eye like, 'Oh boy, he just stole it. Now I have to run back 80 yards and play defense.' That's what happened in this picture."
"I remember playing against Eddie," Marshall reflected. "He had the 'touch and trip' back then, too. He got all the calls as a 17-year-old. It's nice that in this picture, it looks like I probably won [the ball] and he's chasing me."
The main regret Gaven has of this moment in 2004 is his choice in hairstyle.
"I think that's the ugliest hair I've ever had," Gaven said. "I don't know what I was doing back then with my emo haircut, I thought I was cool, but looking back I realize it wasn't cool at all. I'm glad I don't have that hair anymore, and now I try to think I'm cool by growing out the beard."
The shield now currently resides in the back seat of Danny O'Rourke's car.
Have any cool Crew-related relics like this laying around your house? Send me a picture at email@example.com or tweet it to me: @CodySharrett. I'm still waiting for Steve Sirk's Doctor Khumalo keychain.