The Crew will play its first of three matches this season against the New England Revolution as it welcomes Jay Heaps' side to Crew Stadium on Saturday (7:30 p.m. ET / FOX Sports Ohio). The Revs have been a surprise in the Eastern Conference in 2013 with a League-low 16 goals conceded through 18 matches.
In his first year as the Revolution's starter, goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth is tied for the MLS lead with eight shutouts. The 26-year-old netminder's play, along with the addition of Portuguese defender Jose Gonçalves and the first overall pick in the 2013 MLS SuperDraft, Andrew Farrell, have made New England a serious playoff contender in 2013.
"[The Revolution] brought in some new players and they have some players that grew within their system and they're playing better," Crew Head Coach Robert Warzycha said. "They had a bad season last year, they didn't qualify for the playoffs and they were one of the bottom teams in the League. This year, they brought in new players and they're doing better."
Against the Revolution's staunch defense, the Crew will need to make the most of its chances on Saturday. Creativity in the final third hasn't been a problem as the Black & Gold rank ninth in MLS with 257 shots, yet Warzycha would like to see better finishing from his team -- which has 23 goals on the season.
"We create a lot of chances," the Head Coach said. "We just have to be much sharper in front of the goal. That's what I wish for."
WEAPONS IN THE ATTACK
Upon the acquisition of U.S. International Juan Agudelo and the return of Saer Sene from a torn ACL suffered last season, the Revolution attack got a much needed boost in the middle of the first half of the 2013 season. Though Agudelo has missed the last three matches with a sprained knee, Sene (three goals since June 2) and veteran Chad Barrett have stepped up to contribute in the attack.
The Revolution has also benefited from Diego Fagundez's breakout season. The 18-year-old forward leads New England with five tallies in 2013. Second-year midfielder Kelyn Rowe leads the team with six assists.
The Revolution announced on Monday that defender Kevin Alston was taken off the club's disabled list and will be available for this week's matches against the Colorado Rapids and the Crew. Alston was diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia in April, and has been undergoing treatment ever since.
A 2010 MLS All-Star, Alston returned to training earlier this month and will make the trip to Colorado and Columbus. Should he play against the Crew, expect Alston to test the Black & Gold with his pace to provide width and service out of the backline.