Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Counterpoint to Rick Gethin's...

For the Crew SC, a course correction is needed

Presenting for the number 42, while wearing a paper bag for a hat, Vidda "JibJab" Grubin

In the convivial spirit of Helltown Beer's Red Cards in Helltown Podcast, I present an alternative view of where Gregg Berhalter's Columbus Crew SC find themselves, currently, and where the Black and Gold could find themselves at the end of the 2015 Major League Soccer season.

Before starting the scathing critique of his post...a hearty cheers to Rick on bringing the frozen and burning rubber to the Helltown Beer Blog. I look forward to reading about fast cars, slap shots and, hopefully, the often sultry and exotic culture and locales winding through Formula 1 racing.

Now...start your engines and let the era of Point>Counter<Point in Helltown begin.

The 2015 Columbus Crew have indeed been enigmatic at best, average according to the MLS Eastern Conference standings. Rick states, "They currently sit 5th and mired in a logjam of four teams with 24 points in the Eastern Conference. This does not mean that they are good, but merely that the mid-table of the East is really not that good." The beginning of this statement stands on its own, factual, the Crew are in 5th place, but then devolves into dismissive opinion, the idea that The Crew are not good and neither are the other teams in the middle of the Eastern Conference.

As has been the conundrum with Major League Soccer since its inception in 1996, other than the league's four or five bottom dwellers each season, it is difficult to break-down the rest of the teams into average-good-better-best. That being said, the ongoing five year trend brought to you by franchise central, MLS league headquarters in New York City, which allows the wealthiest franchise owners to spend freely on an increasing number of quality high-profile players, is making the task of recognizing the "best" teams in MLS much easier. But which teams can compete with the, now, star laden teams? Which teams in that middle group are in the "better" camp and could challenge for MLS Cup?

Are the Mapfre Stadium Gang one of the "better" teams in MLS? Again, Rick looks at The Columbus Crew and states, "Twenty months into Gregg Berhalter’s tenure as Sporting Director/Head Coach, it is evident that consistency on the pitch is lacking at this point. His midfield is not up-to-par and the defense porous, as evidenced by the consistent early goals allowed. The team is taking on his personality, showing little emotion." And, again, there is much truth in this statement. The Crew have been inconsistent, the defense, at times, porous. But do these trends speak to a team which is not good or passionate? Or, do these trends reveal a deeper meaning?

The revelation for Crew fans since Gregg Berhalter took his place on the touch-line in Columbus has been a wealth of entertaining soccer. Attacking in numbers, goals and young players coming into their own: Finlay, Meram, Tchani and others, have all led to games worth tuning into. Far from being "not good," the Black and Gold are a quality side, able to compete with the best in Major League Soccer.

So what's with the mediocre, inconsistent, results? You have to go back to last year. Gregg Berhalter stated on numerous occasions that he wants The Crew to play dominant, possession oriented soccer. At times in 2014, without a quality striker, young in midfield and very thin in back, Columbus showed signs of developing a style and personality unlike any seen in the history of MLS. 2015 has also seen glimpses of Berhalter's vision.

At some point during this season, the players and the coaching staff began to move away from the steady, yet somewhat erratic, implementation of Berhalter's vision. Ultimately the responsibility for the change falls on Gregg Berhalter; but with such a lofty goal, it is easy for players to take the easier path, the path more travelled. That path is one of simplifying individual responsibility, less pressure, lower standards, a very natural response to striving for the unique and complex.

So, while Rick points out rightly that, "In short, the team has no depth. And no amount of speculation over which player might be enticed into donning the canary kit will change that. The long view must be taken with the goal being that of making the team consistently better. Change must begin to take place now in order for the team to be competitive in the future." That "long view" is going back to the club Gregg Berhalter envisions. The players and coaches have to buy back into the goal of setting the style of The Columbus Crew SC in granite for the rest of time, dominant, possession oriented, dynamic, attacking soccer.

I believe Gregg Berhalter to be very passionate about the sport of soccer. His goals, what he has tried to achieve with Columbus, are outside the norm. Most coaches in professional sports don't have the guts to try and implement such lofty plans, and in Columbus of all places. Most are worried about job security and the immediate future.

Yes, Crew SC and Anthony Precourt must find quality depth for the current squad. Yes, Crew SC must find a way to stop conceding early. But, most importantly, if Gregg Berhalter is going to stick around the C-Bus, he must insist, no, demand that his players and assistant coaches buy back into the vision of the Black and Gold as a unique and dominant force in American professional soccer. That's who Gregg Berhalter is, and for him to approach the sport in any other way will be doomed to disaster. He didn't roam the European countryside in search of the game on a whim. He didn't end up in Spain by accident.

Ironically, The Crew must go back to go forward. As long as Gregg Berhalter is in charge, they must find the place they let their quest for the sublime slip into the everyday, and then unequivocally commit to the unique and complex. As Rick summed-up "For the Crew SC, that time is now." Indeed.

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