The Crew is one match away from a 20-day break from League action to rest up during the group stage of the 2014 FIFA World Cup. But before the Black & Gold can get to that bit of respite, they must head to D.C. United to face the Black-and-Red in one of MLS' longest-running rivalries, this time on a stage unlike any previous trip to the Nation's Capital.
As part of MLS' Road to Brazil series, Columbus and D.C. United are set to square-off in a showcase clash as part of a doubleheader with defending World and European Champions Spain, who faces El Salvador in the first match. Both matches are taking place at FedExField, home of the Washington Redskins, and the largest stadium by listed capacity in the NFL at 85,000.
"We’re excited. You get to play in one of these Road to Brazil matches, a high-profile match, it’s exciting," said Crew Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter. "I think that we’re lucky to be able to take part in that and FedExField will be a nice stadium, hopefully a big crowd. I think it’ll be fun."
With the potential for a larger-than-usual crowd, the match could very well prove to be as intense as it is important. Three huge intra-conference points are on the line, and D.C. is one of the teams the Crew is currently chasing in the MLS Cup Playoffs hunt.
The impact of the fans could also be a factor on the match; last week, Berhalter said that he thought his team was affected by the atmospheres set forth in Portland and Toronto and it was part of the growing process for his side. This Saturday's crowd could prove similar based on pure numbers alone, and it should make for a great test of the Crew's growth from those previous experiences.
"Against any team, it’s very exciting to play," said Bernardo Anor. "The crowd is always against you, but you just have to leave that aside and just focus on what really matters."
Berhalter said that he does not expect Higuain to be ready after suffering an injury just before halftime against Real Salt Lake and Trapp's status remains in doubt. Further adding to the complexities is that this is the third time the Crew plays D.C. United in 2014. Frequent meetings create an interesting dynamic, and Anor thinks that his team is ready due to its familiarity with the Black-and-Red.
"We’ve played them twice already," said Anor. "Playing on the road, we’ve been doing pretty well lately, we just have to be a little more focused in finishing chances and staying focused throughout the 90 minutes. We had an unfortunate loss against Toronto when we could have closed down the game and I think this game is going to be similar. We know how they play and we just have to keep doing our thing."