Crew remains confident ahead of Houston clash

Black & Gold looking to snap two match skid

Andy Gruenebaum

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Despite losing the last two matches, the confidence level around the Crew locker room hasn't changed.

"I think (our confidence) is unwavering. We're still a confident group of guys," goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum said after Thursday's training session at Crew Stadium. "We know we have the personnel. We know we're just not clicking right now. I think we're gonna change that."

Added Captain Chad Marshall, "I think we have the confidence, it's just we know we haven't put it together the last couple of weeks, especially on the offensive end. We have to keep figuring it out. We have a lot of new guys. We'll get there."

The Black & Gold hopes that confidence wlll breed a positive result this weekend as it welcomes the Houston Dynamo to Columbus on Saturday (7:30PM EST/ FOX Sports Ohio).

Though the Dynamo will be without Brad Davis, one of Major League Soccer's premier dead ball specialists, Marshall knows the Crew can't allow Houston set piece opportunities near the penalty area on Saturday.

"(Houston) is a big team. They've got a lot of big dudes: (Brian) Ching, (Will) Bruin, (Bobby) Boswell, (Geoff) Cameron, and (Andre) Hainault," said Marshall, who stands at six feet, four inches tall. "Those guys are good on set pieces. It's going to be a challenge for sure. We have to make sure we body people in the box and not give them anything easy."

Columbus has yet to concede a goal via set piece through five matches this season after allowing only eight in all of 2011.

"I think we're doing a good job (defending set pieces) this year," head coach Robert Warzycha said. "We did a good job last year defending set pieces. We have to mark tight and make sure we put a head to the ball first."

Though Gruenebaum knows it's his responsibility to come out and punch away a free kick or corner kick on occasion, he admits his job is easier with defenders like Marshall in front of him.

"When you've got a group of guys that are good at defending set pieces, it's a lot easier. I've got to be aggressive, but with Chad back there, it's always a breath of fresh air to have him go up for everything."

In addition to defending set pieces, Gruenebaum said the Crew needs to get back to playing their game in order to reverse the trend over the last two weeks.

"We have to make sure (Houston) gets nothing on our end and then play our game: going forward and countering," the keeper explained. "(Houston) defends with numbers, so we've got to do a good job of springing out wide, getting service in the box, and breaking it down when it's in the middle as well."

The Crew (2-3-0, 6pts.) sits two spots behind the fourth-place Dynamo (2-1-1) on the MLS Eastern Conference table.