Crew braces for Galaxy in match filled with subplots
Although the Crew and Galaxy don't play very often – Saturday's meeting is just the fifth between the two sides since the beginning of the 2011 season – tomorrow's clash is overflowing with interesting subplots as the Black & Gold play the second of a three-match homestand.
First, there's Gregg Berhalter's connection to the LA Galaxy organization, a club that he played for from 2009-2011, serving as a player-coach in his final season. Berhalter credited LA boss Bruce Arena for helping him get his start in coaching, and now the two are set to face-off as opposing Head Coaches for the first time. The Galaxy, too, remember Berhalter's time in LA, setting up a fascinating reunion on Saturday.
Beyond that, Robbie Rogers -- an instrumental cog in the Black & Gold's 2008 MLS Cup triumph -- is also set to make his return to Columbus, and then there's Landon Donovan, of course. The MLS and United States Men's National Team great's farewell tour makes its first stop on Saturday right here at Crew Stadium, and the Crew organization is commemorating that fact before the match as players and coaches alike reflect on Donovan's career.
While these storylines are ripe, the fact remains that for the Crew, Saturday's match also represents a gigantic chance to take a much-needed three points. This is the club's only three-match homestand of the year – opportunities like this don't come around very often – and the Black & Gold know that a victory is important in the chase for the MLS Cup Playoffs.
"Every game is important," said defender Michael Parkhurst. "It's coming down to the end and we're feeling a bit of a sense of urgency. We need to get points from every game … The Western Conference is difficult but it's also difficult for them to travel out here. Hopefully we can jump on them early and get the crowd behind us; I expect it will be a very good crowd, hopefully very loud, and hopefully that will help us on the field."
Berhalter, who played down the travel narrative, pointing out that the Galaxy came in yesterday and would be rested in time for the match, has innate familarity with his former club. However, he said that LA plays a bit differently now from how they did during his time there. Still, the Crew boss still highlighted the quality of Saturday's opponent, specifically striker Robbie Keane.
"I was thinking about that the other day and I think it's different," said the Crew boss. "Specifically, how Robbie [Keane] plays is a lot different, because he doesn't have David [Beckham] feeding him the ball. When we played, he was constantly getting behind the backline. David looks up, plays a ball and you know it's going to be an accurate ball because Robbie is so good at movement.
"Now, he's forced into a little bit more playmaking, which isn't to say it's worse, because he's just as good at doing that. That’s actually the scary part of it. He's a guy that can go behind, and if he needs to be the supplier, he can do that as well."
With the retirement of Germany's Miroslav Klose, Keane and Donovan are now the top-two active international goal scorers – yet another storyline and one of many that have come together to produce what should be a tremendous contest on Saturday.
"It's a great game, a huge game," said Ben Speas. "They're a great team. We're excited to play, we're at home and we want the three points."