Following a 3-0-0 start, the Crew have come back down to earth with a loss and a draw in their past two matches. United, meanwhile, has bounced back from a three-game winless stretch to start the year by winning back-to-back matches for the first time since October 2012.
Heading into Saturday's trip to Columbus Crew Stadium (7:30 p.m., MLS Live), United is thriving behind consecutive shutouts secured by reserve goalkeeper Andrew Dykstra and a defense led by veterans Bobby Boswell and Jeff Parke. Although striker Eddie Johnson has yet to open his DCU account, a trade for Chris Rolfe has helped spark the attack.
For the Crew, playmaker Federico Higuain continues to lead the way with his creative flourishes and finishing touch. Columbus coach Gregg Berhalter can also deploy speedster Dominic Oduro, who was suspended for the teams' first meeting and could cause matchup problems for United's older back line.
"Give Gregg a lot of credit in putting a stamp on the team, a real identity as quick as probably anybody," United coach Ben Olsen said. "Higuain is as special as they come in this league, I think Oduro gives them the pace they need up top, and their outside backs bomb forward. The young kid (Wil) Trapp has done very well, fits their system perfectly. They're fun to watch."
Although the Crew are largely healthy, United will again likely be without goalkeeper Bill Hamid (toe), defender Chris Korb (knee) and midfielder Luis Silva (ankle). Midfielder-forward Chris Pontius (hamstring) remains a long-term absentee.