Sunday, February 26, 2012

Crew Preseason: CCC Round 1 (Battery)

The Columbus Crew faced the Charleston Battery (USL Pro) last night in the first round of the three round Carolina Challenge Cup.

Warzycha's Crew side trotted out 17 total players, five went the full 90. Being able to go the full time at this stage says these particular guys are close to fully fit. Which is a very good thing. Durability is the name of the game right now. Below are the folks who finished the race.

GK: Gruenebaum
D: Miranda, Marshall, Mendes, (LB)
MF: Gaven, (CDM), (CAM), (LW)
F: (F), (F)

Mirosevic and Finlay both played over 80 minutes a piece last night as well. Mirosevic (CAM) is certainly being pegged as a starting regular while Finlay (LW) is taking advantage of Duka's absence with the U23 team and Justin Meram's injury. Benardo Anor did not play last night.

Finlay, Tchani, Gaven played well together last night. The Crew bright spot was possession around the center circle. Solid passing peppered with a couple long field switching gems that looked crisp and improved over last year. The Crew's open play goal came from that type play as well with Finlay finding Gaven in the middle about 5 minutes in.

It is nice to see Mirosevic finally play. He helped in controlling the MF but had a hard time trying to link up with Renteria and Vargas. Renteria didn't appear comfortable 20-30 yards out (tended to rush) from goal and Vargas' game is in the box. That said, Vargas did impress me the few times he did touch it between the top of the box and the center circle. Patient, solid first touch and smart distribution.

Vargas also had a couple good crosses come his way, barely missing on one. He was subbed at half time for Kirk Urso. Heinemann came on to replace Renteria with 20 minutes left. It was hard for me to pick out Urso on the grainy feed but Heinemann looked to find free space so Urso must have been playing more withdrawn. The feed went out for the last 15 minutes so I wasn't able to see Heinemann's chance that was reported.

The two/two scoreline suggests that the Crew back line was suspect when it really wasn't. The open play goal the Battery scored started on the left side with a bad Francis pass.

Hard to describe the circumstances of the pass other than it was Francis on the ball with no one around - he kicked (passed?) it towards the closest player to start build up - but it only made it half way to its intended target (who was only about 15 yards away). Predictably, a Battery player swooped in and things immediately got dangerous.

The ensuing 60 seconds saw a folly of panic, missed chances, whiffs, unable to clearances, two or three missed offside calls and finally... a Battery goal. All in the Crew box. Add in the stream quality, bizarre camera 1/camera 2 switching and it became a surreal almost avant-garde scene.

The Crew MF dictated much of the game so outside of that moment, there were few chances for Charleston.

Long post about pre-season action, but first time I've seen v2012 team. Excited over here. Crew still a work in progress. Good to see Columbus making smart passes in the middle, possession.

Lingering question marks; Forwards. Still need a better first touch and improved decision making. Left Back play needs improvement.

Round 2 of the Carolina Challenge Cup is Wednesday at 5PM against the Chicago Fire.

Updated Feb. 27th (including C of C friendly): preseason minutes and stats from scrimmages/friendlies (goals from penalty spot are not included, Mirosevic has two). LINK.

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