The Crew closes out a three-match homestand against the Colorado Rapids on Saturday (7:30 P.M./FOX Sports Ohio). The Rapids visit Columbus following a home win against Toronto FC that saw Edson Buddle score in the final minutes to secure the three points.
Through 10 matches this season, Colorado (3-4-3) currently sits in fifth place on the MLS Western Conference table on 12 points. Both charter members of MLS, the Crew is 11-17-8 all-time against the Rapids and owns an 8-6-4 record at Crew Stadium against the Rocky Mountain side.
Gone is the Rapids attack of old.
The duo of Omar Cummings and Conor Casey that combined for 89 goals for Colorado from 2007-12 was dissolved in the offseason, and Head Coach Oscar Pareja has relied on a mix of rookies and veterans to carry the scoring load for the Rapids so far in 2013. First Round SuperDraft picks Deshorn Brown and Dillon Powers have combined for three goals and two assists this season to compliment the veteran experience of newcomers Edson Buddle and Atiba Harris.
Limiting the impact of Brown's speed and Powers' playmaking ability from the midfield will be key for the Crew defense on Saturday.
"I think [Brown and Powers] can be very dangerous," Crew Head Coach Robert Warzycha said. "Obviously, Powers has a good shot from distance and Brown has a lot of speed. We have to make sure those two don't combine together."
Powers is one of only two players to start in all 10 of the Rapids' matches this season. Having played two seasons with the midfielder at Notre Dame, Crew rookie Ryan Finley knows the impact Powers can have on the game.
"Dillon is a great player," the rookie forward said of his college teammate. "He's very good technically and I think he's taking all their set pieces as well. He's pretty dangerous in there. He's a really, really smart and he's very technically gifted.
Finley continued: "After playing with him for two years, I think I could maybe give a tip here or there to the defense to kind of shut him down. We have some strong guys in the midfield that have played well the couple of games. I think if they can continue to play strong and play together, I think we'll be in good shape this weekend."
EXPERIENCE IN THE BACK
Though the Rapids' offense has been hit or miss this season, scoring only eight goals in 10 matches, an experienced Rapids backline can always be counted on game-in and game-out. Anchored by veterans Drew Moor and Brian Mullan defensively, Colorado has allowed less than one goal per match in 2013.
Should veteran Marvell Wynne return from a quad strain, it would only add to the wealth of experience in the Rapids' backline.
"[Moor, Mullan and Wynne] bring experience," Warzycha said. "They've all played for a few teams they know the League very well. There is a lot of understanding between those guys."
The Crew created plenty of chances last week against the New York Red Bulls, but will need to finish better against an experienced Colorado defense to finish the homestand with a win over the Rapids.
"We have to improve in every aspect of the game," Warzycha explained. "We created enough chances to win the game, and the perfect chance was a penalty kick. I think we were very aggressive, that's why we got the penalty.
"We have to finish. We have to hit the back of the net."