The Columbus Crew make their initial road trip of the season on Saturday as they travel northeast to play New England Revolution, where once again their back line expects a stern test.
The Crew come off a complete victory against the Los Angeles Galaxy where the back three of Robin Fraser, Chad Marshall and Mark Schulte held the Galaxy attack in check.
However, the trio expect a tougher match this weekend as the Revolution strike force of Taylor Twellman and Pat Noonan both made the score sheet in the Revolution's 2-2 tie against the San Jose Earthquakes.
"New England has a great pair of forwards," said Fraser.
However, the Crew are also aware that excellent midfield play is key in Noonan and Twellman's goal scoring outputs.
"New England is going to be a handful," said Crew coach Greg Andrulis. "It isn't just Twellman and Noonan, you have to talk about (Clint) Dempsey, (Jose) Cancela, (Steve) Ralston, and Shalrie (Joseph)."
In addition to preparing for New England's attack, the Crew are looking to generate more of an attack themselves.
"We didn't real create enough quality scoring chances," said Andrulis. "We need to do a better job getting the ball forward in dangerous positions earlier."
Due to injuries and national team call-ups, the Crew were unable to field a full-strength team throughout the preseason. Still, Andrulis' squad showed some good teamwork in their opening match.
"We have a good veteran group," said Andrulis. "We haven't deviated from our plan that we started in February. Even though all the guys haven't played together, they have heard it, watched, and seen it."
The Crew could welcome recent signing Mario Rodriguez and Frankie Hejduk to the starting 11 against the Revolution. Rodriguez arrived in Columbus late last week and could get the nod at right midfield in place of David Testo. Hejduk, who is recovering from a right ankle injury, could start at left midfield instead of Danny Szetela, who picked up a slight injury late in the match against the Galaxy.
Columbus is quite familiar with the Revolution as the teams met six times last season including in the MLS Cup Playoffs, where New England eliminated the Eastern Conference regular season champions after Columbus dominated the regular season series (2-0-2). The Crew remember what transpired late last season, but feel no need for redemption in the 2005 season.
"Last year is last year," said Fraser. Added Andrulis: "It is a different season. The game is about getting points on the road."
John Kuhn is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.