Forget that early-season blowout of Atlanta

Kyle Robertson/Columbus Dispatch / USA

Hey, remember that 6-1 win the Crew had over Atlanta United way back in March? You know, the one where the Crew scored more goals in a game since October of 2003 and Atlanta gave up more than they ever had? Yeah, well, you can forget about that one, because it doesn’t mean a thing as the two teams get ready to meet again Saturday night in Atlanta.

53 points-4th place. Crew v ATL. 49 points-6th place. 1328. . 7:30 PM. 335. Apple TV. October 7th, 2023

The past

So, why does that game not have any bearing on this matchup? Because it was played during one of FIFA’s international windows. Both teams were missing players due to a call-up to their national team or injury. Atlanta was missing seven players, while the Crew was without Lucas Zelarayan, Cucho (injury), and Milos Degenek (injury). Both rosters have a much different look than they did six months ago. A win is a win and the Crew got three points, but you can hardly look at those lineups and think you can infer anything about this upcoming game from that score.

The present

If there is one thing these two teams have in common, it is their ability to score. The Crew leads MLS in scoring with 64 goals, while Atlanta is right behind them with 63. The Five Stripes feature a duo that is as dangerous as any in MLS. Giorgos Giakoumakis is third in the league with fifteen goals. Thiago Almada leads the league with sixteen assists and scored his eleventh goal of season Wednesday against Philadelphia. The Crew defense can’t give these two space to work.

Missing piece

The Crew’s defense has improved of late, but there is a concern heading into this game. Malte Amundsen will not be available due to serving a suspension for yellow card accumulation. Amundsen has really grown into his left back role and has become a formidable presence on the Crew back line. Most likely, Sean Zawadzki will get the start in his place. Although his natural position is midfield, the Ohio native has spent the majority of his season as a defender and is very familiar with the left back position. He started the game at center back Wednesday night, before moving over to the left side when Rudy Camacho entered as a sub. Even with an important missing piece, there’s still confidence in the Crew back line.

What’s the formula?

What is the Crew’s formula for getting another important road win? Good defense, no bad turnovers, and Patrick Schulte must be at the top of his game as he was against New England. Also, the Crew must find a way to score off of an attack that has generated just one goal in their last four games. It is going to be a real battle with the Five Stripes, but the Crew is capable of doing each of the things I listed and coming away with a win.

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The Crew’s win combined with Atlanta’s loss to Philadelphia Wednesday night creates a four-point gap between them in the Easter Conference standings. A win or draw by the Crew means they will finish no worse than fifth in the conference.