Crew looking to vault past Revs in Eastern Conference race
It would appear as if now is the perfect time to play the New England Revolution. Losers of seven straight, the reeling Revs recently completed a Western swing and return home having scored just three times over those seven matches.
However, don't tell that to Crew Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter.
Regardless of the paths taken to get there, both his side and New England enter Saturday's clash on 23 points.
"I don't look too much into it because they have the same amount of points that we do, so as far as I'm concerned we're on a level playing field," said the Crew boss.
Continued Berhalter: "They're looking at it like this is a game they want to win and this is the game they bounce back, and they probably said that last week as well. In MLS, it's so even. Every game you can win, every game you can lose. It's about performing on that day and we want to go there and perform. That's our goal."
Although Columbus has 29 wins against New England all-time, the most against any one club in team history, the Black & Gold have lost the previous four meetings. 20 matches into 2014, New England is the final Eastern Conference side that the Crew has yet to meet this season.
In the Revs' last match, a 2-0 defeat away to FC Dallas, the club made five lineup changes from its previous fixture, a 5-1 loss to LA Galaxy. That fluctuation makes them slightly more difficult to prepare for, according to Berhalter.
"You can't really identify exactly what lineup they're going to play. I think that becomes tricky. Fortunately, we're watching a lot of the games, so we have a good feel for most of the guys. It's just in what constellation are they going to be lining up."
One factor that the Crew boss thinks might aid his team is the Gillette Stadium turf. The Black & Gold are 1-0-1 on turf this season, and although artificial surface tends to have a negative reputation in soccer, Berhalter thinks it actually gives his team an edge.
"It helps us. Look at our performances on turf. We've played well. We move the ball quickly, you can play to feet, that's what we like to do. I think it helps us."
This match is also the first return of Michael Parkhurst since a highly successful Revs tenure from 2005-2008. The Crew captain said that a quick start is key for his new club this weekend.
"Desperate teams can be dangerous, but knowing how things have been going for them, I think it's important that we start the game well," said Parkhurst. "We know firsthand what it's like to go through not necessarily a losing streak, but a non-winning streak, and if you start the game off poorly, it just seems to compound. Hopefully we're able to do that against them – put them behind the ball, make them defend, get some early chances and build from there."