Columbus Crew midfielder Darlington Nagbe thinks the recent international break has allowed the team to prepare well for their clash with Charlotte, as they look to join their visitors on 19 points.
The Crew are 10th in the Eastern Conference with 16 points from their 13 games this term after beating Atlanta on the road last time out, and Nagbe thinks the side’s 20-day break since that fixture has proven invaluable.
“I think just, being sharper, that’s the biggest thing – staying sharp, and I think that’ll be our advantage, getting a lot of touches on the ball, working on new formations and new things,” he said.
“In my opinion, a lot of good work (has been done). Everyone’s returned excited to get their game going, so it should be a good game.”
Charlotte, meanwhile, beat the New York Red Bulls 2-0 last time out to continue their decent start to the campaign, though they are yet to win a single away MLS game in 2022.
Interim head coach Christian Lattanzio was delighted with Charlotte’s performance in that win, and says he has confidence they will hit the same levels when they go back on the road.
“I was really pleased with the way the boys played against Red Bulls because we tried to put in place a couple of different things,” he said.
“It’s normal, every coach has a different interpretation of even the same system of play. So, I wanted to give a couple of points and the boys did it even better than I thought.
“They were great during the week, we didn’t have a lot of time to prepare it and they did it so well… but again it’s a process, it takes time. The players here, I find them clever and focused on what they need to do. And I am very confident in them, I believe in them one hundred percent.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Columbus Crew – Erik Hurtado
Hurtado netted in the win at Atlanta last time out after returning to the Crew attack, and will likely provide their main goal threat again if he starts at Lower.com field.
Charlotte FC – Ben Bender
Baltimore-born midfielder Bender has scored three goals so far this season, including a crucial strike against the Bulls last time out, and will hope to provide a spark for the poor travelers.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– Columbus are unbeaten in their last five games against expansion teams (W3 D2), including knocking then-newcomers Nashville out of the 2020 playoffs. The Crew have lost only one of their last 11 home matches against expansion sides (W8 D2, including playoffs), a 2-0 defeat to Atlanta in July 2017.
– The Crew have lost three of their last four home matches, including a 2-0 defeat to LAFC on May 21, their last home MLS game. Prior to this run, Columbus had suffered just five defeats in their previous 38 home MLS matches (W27 D6, including playoffs) dating back to July 2019.
– Charlotte FC earned their sixth win of the season on Saturday, beating the Red Bulls 2-0 at home. All six of Charlotte’s wins, and 18 of their 19 points, have come at home this season. On the road, Charlotte has collected just one point while being outscored 13-4.
– The Crew are the least accurate shooting team in MLS this season, hitting just 26.3 per cent of their shots on target. Of the six Crew players to attempt 10 or more shots this season, only one, Derrick Etienne (10/23 – 43.5 per cent) has hit more than one-third of his shots on target.
– Charlotte’s first goal on Saturday, a Ben Bender strike, was scored from outside the box, the expansion side’s fifth goal from outside the box this season. One-third (5/15) of Charlotte’s goals have come from outside the box, with only Columbus scoring more (6) times or netting a higher percentage (35 per cent) of their goals from outside the area.