Monday, June 19, 2017

Rd 17: Bad Week

Columbus ended up losing both games this week. The first was on Wednesday when upstart USL side FC Cincinnati were able to knock Crew SC out of the US Open Cup - and the second was back in MLS regular season play when expansion side Atlanta United handed them a 3-1 loss.

Gregg Berhalter needed a result in one of the two. I wrote about it early last week. Both games were an opportunity to get some of the heat and frustration building within the team off. It didn't happen.


We'll start with the Atlanta result. Geraldo Martino locked up Columbus by applying mild pressure all over the pitch. Columbus likes to knock the ball all around and then strike. Usually down the wings or looking for distribution from Frederico Higuain through the middle. By not allowing space to players with the ball it left it up to the Crew to rely on quick decision making and technical passing ability (vs. just passing around with no pressure and switching fields until something opened up).

This proved to be a relatively new way to beat Columbus. Previously, we had seen teams willing to bunker and wait out a result or apply intense pressure in their own half (or a combination of the two). By putting players up the field in the general areas of Crew players limited all that. It's part of the reason things got pinball-y in the 2nd half.

On the first goal, Josh Williams was caught off guard by the mild pressure. His thinking wasn't fast enough. Columbus was able to equalize, which is expected because of the number of chances the team is able to create, but everything turned random as the game wore on. Not Berhalter's way. An example of this was late in the game when Niko Hansen dribbled the ball into space and was not quick enough in making a decision. He lost it, Atlanta turned it into a goal at the other end.

The third goal came in a similar fashion. Crew SC mucked it up in the back and gave it away around the penalty area. Martino employed a simple system that didn't tire out his players (pressing) or required any great defensive positioning (bunkering).

This simple template is something other teams will pick up on. It'll be up to Columbus to figure out a way around it. The problem is; Outside of Artur and Higuain, there may not be enough technical talent to work out of mild pressure.


Columbus looked rusty coming out of the gates in this one. Things just were not connecting. After the looping header goal by FCC things didn't change. Crew SC just looked lost. And without a talented striker like Ola Kamara up top, things just didn't happen. In the end, it looked very much like a normal USL game.

Frustration for Gregg Berhalter's team spilled over after the game. Cameras picked up players arguing with opposing coaches and fans expressing displeasure with Columbus.

This game was unique in that it was one outside the comfort zone of normal MLS. The result mattered. It wasn't two teams owned by the same organization facing off. And it was a (relatively) local affair. On top of that Columbus has an inferiority complex when it comes to both Cincy and Cleveland ("pro cities).


It was a big week for the team. They are slipping in the standings (20th overall in the last 10 games) and the lost to a far less talented outfit.

Columbus has the talent and coaching to easily be a team battling for an MLS playoff spot but with the disappointment of last year still swimming around in player's heads, it might turn into a mind game. All Crew SC has to be is better than a few conference teams. DC and Philly are a given. Toronto, Chicago and NY City FC are better. This leaves Orlando, NYRB, Montreal and New England as the teams to beat.

Will that happen? All performance indicators are pointed down. It's not looking like it.

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