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.”