After a tumultuous rain delayed, played, and then delayed again Saturday night in Charlotte, The Crew (7-9-5, 6th in the East) will head home to Lower.com Field to play host to CF Montréal (11-3-8, 3rd in the East).
This will mark the first meeting between the two clubs in the 2022 campaign, with Columbus holding the all-time edge in the series at 12-4-9. This late season match-up has major playoff seeding implications, as The Crew try to push up into the top four with at least a game in hand on every club above them. As we prepare for Wednesday's match-up, here are three things to keep an eye on.
1. Cucho has revived the Crew attack
In his first four appearances, Cucho has potted four goals for the Crew. His impact has been felt immediately on the scoresheet, but it has also allowed his teammates to shine as well. Lucas Zelarayán recently ended a 13 game scoring drought against rival FC Cincinnati, but he also hadn't had been credited with an assist since match week one against Vancouver until Cucho's arrival from Watford.
Since the debut of the 23-year-old Colombian, Lucas has tallied four assists including the primary helper on both goals against DC United. Cucho's presence as a central forward has opened up space for both of his wingers as well. Both Derrick Etienne Jr and Luis Díaz have seen increased scoring chances over the last four matches.
DEJ spearheaded the comeback against the Fire with a brace, while Díaz has been able to create shots, four in his last two matches, and has been far more successful creating scoring chances with his runs in the attacking third. It will be interesting to see how the renewed Columbus attack can rekindle momentum at Lower.com Field, where they've only scored three goals in their last four home matches.
2. Montréal excel on the road
CF Montréal have been an outstanding road side this campaign, compiling a record of 5-2-4 for 17 points out of 11 matches (1.55 per game) away from the Stade Saputo. The Canadian side love to play a three in the back formation, often with a 3-4-3 or a 3-4-1-2, and they are often very positive in attack on the road. They've tallied 18 goals in 11 away matches (1.64 GF), and are often dominant in controlling possession.
The Montréal attack is lead by both Djordje Mihailovic and Romell Quioto, who have caused fits for many MLS defenses this season. Mihailovic and Quioto have combined for nearly half of CF Montréal's 36 goals in 2022 (Djordje with seven, Quioto with nine).
Defensively, it appears they have found an answer in net with James Pantemis. Pantemis has started the last three matches for Montréal, only allowing one goal and keeping two clean sheets. A capable and potent offense mixed with red-hot goalkeeping means that The Crew have to execute extremely well if they want a result Wednesday night.
3. The Crew are looking to extend their unbeaten run to 10
Over the last nine weeks, Columbus has managed to post a record of 4W-0L-5D, putting them firmly back into the playoff discussion. Surprisingly enough, of those four wins in this stretch, three of them have been away from home. The Crew's offense has been clicking, scoring 12 of their 27 goals on the campaign during this stretch.
It is also important to note that they have kept a clean sheet in four of those matches as well, including back-to-back shutouts of FC Cincinnati and the New England Revolution. The play away from Lower.com Field has been very respectable in Caleb Porter's fourth season in charge, but the play at home will need to reach its next level if The Crew want to extend the unbeaten run to double digits