Preview: Crew vs. Red Bulls
Just like last week's 3-0 win against D.C. United, the Crew's play in central midfield will be key in Saturday's match against the New York Red Bulls (4:00 p.m. ET/NBC Sports Network).
Against D.C. United, Tony Tchani made his first start of the season alongside Danny O'Rourke in the midfield after battling a groin injury and illness over the few weeks prior. Agustín Viana, who had started the previous seven matches with O'Rourke, moved to leftback before injuring his hamstring in the 20th minute.
The attack-minded Tchani complimented O'Rourke's defensive pressure on D.C.'s attackers, forming a tremendous partnership for the Crew. Tchani's willingness to get forward allowed O'Rourke to do what he does best: disrupt the opposing team's attack and set up the Crew offense.
"Tony and I have played together for a couple of years now," O'Rourke said. "I love it when he's in there. I think we have a good partnership. Instead of having two guys that are more defensive, he kind of gets up a little bit which creates more triangles in the midfield.
"When he's in there, I think he adds a new dimension to this team."
Tchani added: "I like to be a box-to-box player and Danny is more of a sitting guy in midfield. If I sit though, I can let Danny get forward. He got forward a few times [against D.C.]. That's usually not Danny's game. He's usually sitting back, but I think he did a superb job."
The two will need a similar performance on Saturday against the Red Bulls' tandem of World Cup veterans Tim Cahill and Juninho in central midfield. New York visits Crew Stadium on the heels of its first back-to-back victories of 2013.
"Whatever we do, we have to win the middle of the field," Head Coach Robert Warzycha explained. "In the game against D.C., we owned the midfield and that's what we have to do against New York too."
"[Cahill and Juninho] are world-class players," O'Rourke said.
"I'm looking forward to playing them."
The Crew and Red Bulls will kick under the sunny skies of Columbus in a nationally televised clash on Saturday afternoon, a change from the typical night match the clubs are accustomed to. The different start time will change the routines of players and coaches alike.
"When it's an early game it means I have to get up a little bit earlier, maybe an hour or two earlier, and start my routine," Crew forward Dominic Oduro said. "I've got to eat a really good breakfast, relax.
"No Papa John's," the Ghanaian pizza enthusiast joked.
While Head Coach Robert Warzycha preferred playing under the lights in night games during his playing career, Oduro is looking forward to the afternoon kickoff.
"For the player, I think it's normally better to play when the lights are on," Warzycha exlained. "At night, the feeling is a little different. But I think playing in the afternoon is not bad. It's good for the fans because they can come over and watch the game and still have time afterward to do other stuff."
"To me as a player, I enjoy playing in the afternoon," Oduro disagreed. "I think it's best for me and the fans too, the time is perfect. The weather will be nice and the fans will be out."