Following a break in MLS action, the Black & Gold are set to welcome the Philadelphia Union to Crew Stadium for the team's second home match of the season on Saturday (5:00 p.m. ET/Tickets). The Crew got the better of the Union in 2012, earning two wins in three matches last season.
John Hackworth's side visits Columbus much improved from a year ago, already securing two victories in four matches thus far in 2013. The offseason saw the Union add punch to its attack by bringing back the club's all-time leading scorer in Sebastien Le Toux. The team also solidified its defense in acquiring veteran centerback and Philadelphia native Jeff Parke from Seattle Sounders FC.
"I think [the Union] brought in some of the right pieces of the puzzle," Crew midfielder Eddie Gaven said. "They seem to be playing well as a team. They're playing good team defense and they've created some goals on the other end of the field. It's going to be a very tough game for us."
"[The Union] brought in some new players, like other teams," Crew Head Coach Robert Warzycha added. "We saw them a bit in Orlando and they looked good.
"They've won two games and they've lost two, but obviously they're a completely different team than last year."
Remarkably, 2012 marked the first time Union midfielder Brian Carroll missed out on playing in the MLS Cup Playoffs in his 10-year career.
Having helped the Crew to the 2008 MLS Cup, Carroll's former team knows how important the 31-year-old is to his club's success.
"[Carroll] is very consistent," Gaven said of his former teammate. "He always plays well. A lot of the things he does doesn't show up on the stat sheet maybe, but he does all those little things. He does all the dirty work off the ball that makes a team good. He's been doing it ever since his first year in the League and he's a big part of why every team he's been on has done well."
Captaining his side from central midfield in the Union's 4-4-2, Warzycha knows disrupting Carroll's distribution will be key on Saturday.
"[Carroll] has experience, he organizes the team," the Head Coach said. "We have to make sure that we own the middle of the field."
KLÉBERSON IN THE MIX
Brazilian Kléberson could debut in the Union lineup alongside Carroll in central midfield. The 33-year-old was acquired on loan from Brazilian side Bahia on March 25 in exchange for Freddy Adu.
Crew centerback Gláuber thinks his fellow countryman will fit in nicely in MLS.
"Kléberson is a really good player," he said. "He is really good technically and I think he'll make good work here in the U.S.A., but I hope he doesn't start the good work on next Saturday.
"He can be the difference on the field. I know what potential he has. I think he'll have a great season [in MLS]."
Though the two have never met on the field, Gláuber has always respected the 2002 World Cup winner's play.
"All the times I've seen him play, I have a good admiration for him."