Sunday, May 15, 2016

Crew SC, Better Now... or Worse

Columbus Crew SC finished last night's messy game all tied up 1-1 with the Colorado Rapids. Due to all the intra-team drama, it was a long week for Columbus players. Taking that into consideration one could say that the effort and result of the match turned out pretty good for the home side. At least, that's the built-in narrative.

Had the team lost it would have been "hard fought game after a long week, team looking to heal." If they had pounced on Colorado (who were on their third game of the week), it would have been "healing has begun, future looks bright" and all of that. Regular seasons can be long and allow for even the best, most seasoned, minds to play tricks on themselves.

For some of the players, the result probably didn't matter too much. Moving forward is the best medicine and a day away from the match is probably the best this team has felt for weeks. For other players, particularly the group that goes back to the scoreboard fire, it might like business as usual (we oversell player's emotion a bit much).

The sport of soccer doesn't lend itself to game-to-game drama. A weak or strong side might not reveal itself for three, five or ten weeks. It takes time, but you can start asking questions.

Columbus, in her current state, has some tough ones...

--> First is obvious. The teams leading (record) scorer is gone and the player that served him the most assists (Ethan Finlay) has been moved to the bench due to lack of form. Ola Kamara and Cedrick have moved into starting roles to replace them. It's early, but Ola looks to be average and Cedrick will not be able to make up the production of Kei and Ethan.

--> The second issue has to do with Waylon Francis. The proven left back has also been moved to the bench for, allegedly, effort level. Corey Ashe has come in to replace him, but he is a large step down (relatively MLS speaking) at the position. Francis' 14 assists the last two and a half years tops the last seven seasons for Ashe. That might not be the best measure, but it gives you an idea of what Francis provides. He's easily been one of the best and most productive left full-backs in MLS last few years.

--> Third is the missing in action Tony Tchani. Mohammed Saeid has filled in well there, but he does not provide the physical presence that is required in MLS. He's more a playmaker than a defensive mid.

--> Fourth, and the most severe, I'll hold on to here for a second, but those are the TOP THREE CREW SC BURNING ISSUES that this post could have been called.

Crew SC's current place on the MLS table does not allow for much time or error for Gregg Berhalter. As it stands, Columbus is 17th on the combined PPG table. Pinging around the bottom like this is the lowest we've seen, this far in, since before 2008. It's a bad spot for a team in a bad spot.

So the question to ask here is this. With these changes mentioned above, is the team better or worse off?

Looking at it through this lens tells us that overreacting the way the team did after Kei Kamara spoke out has got the team pointed in a directly downward direction. This obviously impacts their place on the table and the quality of games. And, this is where it hurts most, eventually have an impact on the game day experience by way of ticket sales, concessions, jersey sales, etc.

It's a giant hole this team has to dig out of and leads us back to the fourth BURNING ISSUE with the team...

--> Gregg Berhalter's performance on the job this year. Where is this team going? Have player issues been resolved? What's the path forward? Is the coach and sporting director the only one to blame? Anthony Precourt's answer is the only one that matters right now, but the freefall from MLS Cup final to where the team is now is embarrassing. It's fair to start asking questions ahead of the transfer window this summer.

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