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Preview: Crew vs. Rapids

The Basics

Columbus Crew (No. 2 seed in Eastern Conference) vs. Colorado Rapids (No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference) at Crew Stadium in Columbus, Ohio.

The Rapids lead 1-0 in the two-game aggregate-goals series.

TV Info

4 p.m. ET; ONN, SportsTime Ohio and TeleFutura

Game Intro

In the first leg of the match at Colorado, the Rapids took utter control of the first half and could have easily gone scored more than once. However, in the second half, Columbus settled in the back and began finding their footing, pouring the pressure on the Rapids and nearly pulling even.

Now at home, the Crew must come back from a one-goal deficit.

Should Colorado win or tie the match, they will move on to the Eastern Conference Championship. However, if Columbus can win by two or more goal, they would advance. A Crew win by one goal would push this into silver-goal extra time (two 15-minute periods), possibly followed by penalty kicks if necessary.

Columbus Crew

The Crew were in the same situation last year, having lost 1-0 on the road to Real Salt Lake in Game 1. In the return leg, Columbus took a 2-0 lead but gave up three straight goals and were eliminated 4-2 on aggregate.

“We can learn from that,” Crew coach Robert Warzycha said. “We were too good a team to lose a 2-0 lead at home like that.”

Warzycha is contemplating starting Andres Mendoza and Guillermo Barros Schelotto up top, and Andy Gruenebaum will make his second straight start in goal for the injured William Hesmer (right shoulder fracture).

Although the Crew were outplayed from minutes 15 to 70 in the first leg at Colorado, the team is confident that the momentum found in the end will carry over to Saturday.

Colorado Rapids

Coach Gary Smith felt Gruenebaum looked shaky in his first MLS start for the Crew this season and the Rapids will try to pressure him from all angles.

“I thought there were one or two occasions where he was a little bit hesitant,” Smith said of Gruenebaum earlier this week. “I thought he looked a little bit edgy.”

Midfielder Pablo Mastroeni scored his first goal in 23 playoff games during his 13-year MLS career in Game 1, but it was his second vs. the Crew this season.

“I think we have the kind of guys and the character that are necessary to get the job done,” he said.

The Rapids will be relieved by goalkeeper Matt Pickens’ return to practice. Pickens had some tightness in the groin earlier in the week, but as of Thursday he was training and should be ready to start on Saturday.

Heroes & Villains

Conor Casey & Omar Cummings vs. Guillermo Barros Schelotto – It’s no secret that to keep the Rapids quiet, you must subdue the Casey-Cummings pairing. In the first match, the duo hounded the Crew defense, and it was a play in which both were involved that led to the goal.

Schelotto is coming into this match with something to prove. After going quietly for much of the first leg, the 37-year-old was subbed out in the 68th minute. Come Saturday, he’ll want to show he still has it, and it will be his job to orchestrate the Crew’s comeback.

Stat that makes you go “Hmm...”

The Rapids’ last win in Columbus was 2-1 on June 26, 2004. The Crew are 4-0-2 at home vs. Colorado since. The good news for Colorado? They only need a tie in the match to advance.