Crew-Chivas USA Preview

The Columbus Crew remember how they followed up the last time
they missed the playoffs – with the franchise’s lone MLS Cup.

Chivas USA has failed to reach the postseason for three straight
years, with the latest absence resulting in the dismissal of coach
Robin Fraser.

The Crew are winless in their last six visits to face Chivas
USA, which will debut coach Jose Luis Sanchez Sola in Saturday
night’s opener for both teams.

Columbus (15-12-7) finished one point behind Houston for the
fifth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference last season,
missing out for the first time in five years. The last time the
Crew failed to reach the postseason, they returned to win it all in
2008.

The Crew bring back their nucleus, led by co-scoring leaders
Jairo Arrieta and Eddie Gaven as well as 2012 MLS newcomer of the
year Federico Higuain. They have added nine-year MLS veteran
Dominic Oduro to bolster an attack that was sixth in the East with
44 goals.

While Columbus will closely resemble last year’s team, it’s hard
to know what to expect from Chivas USA (7-18-9). Fraser was fired
after the club finished last in the West with a league-low 24
goals.

Sanchez Sola, a relative unknown in MLS circles, was hired in
December. Referred to as “El Chelis” and known for his colorful
personality, he brings six years of head coaching experience in
Mexico’s first division despite having never played
professionally.

Sanchez Sola has brought with him numerous players from the
Mexican league.

Defenders Walter Vilchez and Joaquin Velazquez are among the
major additions, although the 37-year-old Velazquez last played in
2010. Another promising newcomer is teenage striker Giovani
Casillas, who played for Mexico’s under-17 World Cup champions two
years ago.

Goalkeeper Dan Kennedy and striker Juan Agudelo are among the
few recognizable faces left for Chivas. Columbus has had trouble
putting together a scouting report on its opponent.

“I know Chivas has Agudelo and they’ve got Kennedy in goal, and
that’s about it,” defender Josh Williams told the Crew’s official
website. “I don’t know much else. There’s been a bunch of turnover
there.”

Chivas is so focused on developing chemistry that Sanchez Sola
doesn’t have much to say about the Crew.

“With all due respect, our rival, with as little or a lot that I
might know (about them), it is my understanding that Chivas’ rival
on Saturday is Chivas,” the Spanish-speaking Sanchez Sola told
Chivas’ official website. “I say that in the way that we have to
defeat ourselves and take out that courage and everything that
we’ve done in preseason and show that; the moment we do, Chivas is
going to reach victory.”

Crew coach Robert Warzycha said that Sanchez Sola likes to
employ a 3-5-2 formation. Warzycha said he expects his central
defense tandem of veteran Chad Marshall and Brazilian newcomer
Glauber Berti to play a key role in neutralizing Agudelo.

Columbus won 1-0 at home in the lone meeting last season. The
Crew have been outscored 11-3 during their 0-5-1 winless slide at
Chivas.

“It’s important for us to start the season on the right foot,”
Marshall said. “We’re looking to start it off the right way on
Saturday.”