Columbus Crew SC (4-2-1, 13 pts.) lies second in the Eastern Conference and plays host to the Portland Timbers on April 20, as the Timbers come to Central Ohio winless on the year through six matches in their season-opening 12-match road stint.
Though currently last in the Western Conference, statistically speaking, the Timbers (0-5-1, 1 pt.) have held their own amongst MLS peers with a top-10 mark in chances created (62), including 15 created from set plays, a mark that is five ahead of Crew SC.
Midfielder Diego Valeri leads the team with three assists while forward Jeremy Ebobisse leads with two goals. Ebobisse earned his first cap for the U.S. Men’s National Team in a friendly against Panama on January 27, playing as a left winger alongside Gyasi Zardes and Zack Steffen, as well as Wil Trapp who subbed on in the 84th minute.
Threat-wise, Valeri and Sebastian Blanco have created 37 chances combined, with the next closest player being David Guzmán at five. All of Blanco’s have come from open play while Valeri’s free-kick specialty is noted in his 15 chances created from set plays.
As part of the Club’s midfield block, Crew SC’s Artur spoke on the Timbers’ strong midfield and the threat transition players like Blanco and Valeri pose.
“They have good individual players. Every team in the MLS have quality and we have to be prepared,” Artur said. “I have been watching some games and Blanco and Valeri create a lot of chances and they have a strong midfield. I think we need to be ready and to show we are at home and we win at home.”
Speaking of winning at home, the Crew have not lost at MAPFRE Stadium since June of 2018, going 10-0-2 across all competitions with a plus-11 goal differential in addition to six shutouts, three of which have come in the 2019 regular season.
Key to the defensive form? Togetherness and effort, Artur said.
“I think we had a good understanding and the boys are working hard. Everybody plays well together, and I think it’s important to keep the defense good,” Artur said. “I keep doing the same work. We are trying to be connected and work together to help the back four. I think it’s important.”
Midfielder and fellow Brazilian Robinho echoed the same sentiment regarding the Club’s defensive presence, emphasizing the pressure applied by the Crew's wingers and forwards.
“I think that we as team have been defending well. In the front, people like Pedro, like me, like Federico, we’re trying to help out as much as we can with defending, so we defend as one unit,” Robinho said.
During the Crew’s unbeaten home stretch, only one draw has taken place (0-0 on Sept. 29 vs. Philadelphia), while only one match has exceeded a one-goal margin of victory (2-0 on March 30 vs. Atlanta). Notable stats to that trend? A home save percentage of 93 percent and a shot conversion rate of nearly one in every five chances, a top-10 mark in MLS.
Kickoff against Portland is slated for 7:30 p.m. ET at MAPFRE Stadium. Supporters can watch the match on FOX Sports Ohio, stream on FOX Sports GO, or listen on 97.1 FM The Fan or www.ColumbusCrewSC.com (English & Spanish).