Crew ready for challenge in New England
The Crew return to MLS play Saturday night in New England (7:30 EST/FOX Sports Ohio) following a three week break in league action. The Black & Gold will hope to extend a streak that left them unbeaten in the league during the month of May.
Despite the three week lull in competition, the Crew remained intense in training to stay hungry for this week's match against the Revolution.
"We have to take what happened (in May) and remind ourselves of how well we were playing and get back to the scheme of things," forward Justin Meram said after Thursday's training session in Obetz. "It's always tough taking a break, especially that long, but we got guys back who were injured. We had a great showing today in 11v11, so it should be good."
"The competitive spirit has been consistent in training. We've had days off here and there, but we've been training hard. It's been intense," added goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum. "It was like the World Cup going on. I think competitive spirits are flowing. We took it out on (New England's) reserves this past weekend and hopefully we can carry on that momentum."
Gruenebaum and the Crew haven't been beaten on the road since April 14 in Philadelphia. The 'keeper says New England will be another tough road task that the Black & Gold will have to grind out for a result.
"(New England) is going to be another tough place to gut out a result," the defending Save of the Week winner said. "We've done well there in the past, but I think they're going to use that as bulletin board material and we just need to come out and match their intensity. I think they're going to come out flying, especially with both of us being on a little bit of a break. We have to match their intensity from the start."
Different from the Crew's past success against the Revolution, New England has re-tooled its attack with offseason signings Saer Sene and Lee Nguyen and draft pick Kelyn Rowe to aid Shalrie Joseph and Benny Feilhaber in the final third for first year head coach Jay Heaps.
"Going forward, they're a dangerous team. They work well together," Gruenebaum said of his opponents. "They're under a new coach, it's just a different kind of energy going on (in New England). You can see that on video, they're a different team. Saer Sene is fun to watch, actually. It's going to be a challenge to contain those guys."
Scoring early will be key for the Crew. The Black & Gold have scored first half goals in each of the last three matches, something Columbus hadn't done since March 24 against Montreal.
"We have to exploit them from the back and see what they've got over there," Meram said. "I know they have a veteran goalkeeper who is always up for the challenge, so I think we'll have to get to them early and get some in before they do."
Heading into the weekend, the Crew sits at fourth place in the MLS Eastern Conference, seven points behind third place Sporting KC.