Out of the frying pan and into the fire is an apt way to describe the four-day stretch for Columbus Crew SC.
Still, the Crew cooked up a nice meal on Wednesday in a 3-1 win over the LA Galaxy, but Saturday’s showdown against League-leading LAFC presents a tougher batch of ingredients considering the opponent – the highest-scoring team in MLS – comes in without having a played a mid-week match.
Nevertheless, Wednesday's win provides the Crew with confidence and momentum, something that can’t necessarily be attributed right now to LAFC, who’s coming off two consecutive draws after starting the season unbeaten in their first seven matches (6-0-1).
“I think we can take a lot of confidence from that game [vs. LA],” said head coach Caleb Porter. “I mean LA Galaxy is one of the power teams; big market, big club, top of the table, up there. We should take a lot of confidence from playing the way we played. We scored three goals. We were defending extremely well against a talented group.”
From LAFC, expect a 4-3-3 formation with MLS Golden Boot leader Carlos Vela on the right wing, Christian Martinez up top, and Diego Rossi on the left. Vela, whose left-footed cut-back has burned teams en route to a League-high 11 goals so far in 2019, represents the heart of the team on the stat sheet and in the locker room, while Rossi doesn't sit too far out of the picture with six goals as back-up fire power.
The key on Saturday, Porter mentioned, will maintaining organization under LAFC's pressure as the Crew will look to get wide and behind their lines while dealing with LAFC's counter-pressure and want to hold teams in the center of the field.
“They want to lock you in with possession and counter pressure. We have to be organized in those moments where we are low because they get a lot of numbers central,” Porter said.
Twenty-one of LAFC’s 26 goals have come from open play. Additionally, the second-year team ranks first in chances created (134) with the counter-pressure and transition opportunities playing a big role.
“And then, when we win the ball, they look to counter press you in and lock you in,” Porter mentioned. “We need to be sharp at breaking their pressure, playing through it and around it and behind it. And not let them turn you over and transition to goal.”
Overall, it’s the Crew's sixth match in 22 days; Saturday will be a grind against a fresher LAFC team against a tight schedule that's stacked against Columbus. But what the Club can do, Porter said, is bring Wednesday’s energy into one of the most highly anticipated home games of the season so far.
“We need to carry that forward into the next game and that is the best thing that we can do,” Porter said on the momentum earned from Wednesday’s match. “And we know LAFC didn’t have a game. They had all week to prepare. We had one day to prepare. The best thing I can do as a coach is build off of that going into the next game.”