David Cath, ColumbusCrewSC.com
Nearly three weeks ago, Columbus Crew SC stood in the midst of a key stretch against Eastern Conference opponents in Orlando City SC and the New York Red Bulls.
One bye week, two wins and six goals later, Columbus looks to resume its offensive momentum in what is considered, according to Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter, a tricky situation for the Black & Gold.
“I think (Houston) is dangerous,” Berhalter said, “because if you think about it, they are going to come here with a mindset that they have nothing to lose.”
The Dynamo will be without a key portion of its roster following a 1-0 loss to Sporting Kansas City on Aug. 4, which witnessed three red cards issued and an ejection to Houston manager Wilmer Cabrera. Additionally, the Dynamo will arrive in the Capital City for their third game in the last eight days.
Despite the circumstances, Houston’s strength – according to forward Gyasi Zardes – can make an impact with the ping of a lone through-ball.
“(Houston’s) strength is the counterattack,” Zardes said. “They lead their forwards up while they are defending, as soon as they get the ball they try to play to those guys right away.”
The tactic is not lost on defender Jonathan Mensah, however, who scored his first goal of the season on July 28 against the Red Bulls.
“Organizing (defensively) while we are attacking,” Mensah answered on what will be key to shutting down Houston’s counter. “We are just going to be close to them and we just break down the counter attacks. I think we are going to be fine from there.”
As Columbus looks to secure its second three-match win streak this season, establishing the tone inherently starts with controlling the match’s opening minutes.
“We really have to capitalize on the beginning stages of the game,” Zardes said. “The first 15 minutes we have to win it and hopefully score a goal first just because I think that dictates the game.”
And the Black & Gold have the results to show for it; this season, Crew SC is 9-1-2 when scoring the first goal and 6-1-1 when leading at halftime. Additionally, the Club is 3-0-1 overall when scoring within the first 15 minutes.
Currently eight points back of the Red Bulls and NYCFC, Crew SC (10-7-6, 36 points) hosts the Dynamo (7-9-6, 27 points) on Saturday, Aug. 11, with kickoff slated for 7:30 p.m. ET as part of Columbus Zoo Night at MAPFRE Stadium.