Sunday, June 26, 2016

A Familiar Slog

Columbus salvaged a draw last night after surviving a bevy of early NY Red Bull chances. That's about all the summary you need from last nights game. The match was slow and disjointed on both sides. And to be frank, it was one of the worst Crew performances in recent memory.

The table may say that Gregg Berhalter's team is in a familiar place right now. In 2014 it was 18 from the first 15 games. Last year and this year it is 17 points. All of these starts are mind-numbingly mediocre, but that's MLS! It's designed to be this way for three-quarters of the league.

Looking back, however, there is something different about this Crew SC season verses 2014 and 2015.

2014: Two years ago you could see the work being done on the minds of the players. It was fantastic to watch. Many of the guys we had seen struggling under the previous coach were acting new and improved. The change was refreshing and visible. All was not perfect, however. A fast 9 points in the first three games slipped into what was one of the worst runs in team history. One win in 16 games. Right, smack dab in the middle of the year.

2015: The season that others will forever be measured against. It was a slow-ish start for the team but you could see the attack mentality of the team starting to take shape when they scored 10 goals in three home games late April and beginning of May. Again, though, Berhalter's team slipped into an eight points in 10 game run (one win) in June and July before catching fire at the beginning of September.

2016: And here we are this season. Another early lull, according to the table. But how much is the MLS table worth, really? Berhalter learned the league (largely) under Bruce Arena. The same man that openly admits that results most of the year matter little.

Is this season like the other two? It's missing the re-programming of players in 2014 and the outrageous offensive form of Ethan Finlay and Kei Kamara of last year. The key difference this year is that you have long-term injuries to key players in Federico Higuain and Gaston Sauro on top of intra-team drama - nor was the team ever more than a point out of a playoff position.

Columbus is currently 4 points out of a playoff spot and sitting behind two teams for that spot.

It's easy to point to results and say, "this team has been here before." Yes, the familiar slog of mediocre results is here, but that doesn't mean it's somehow easier to digest. Extended mediocre runs of results may have become a signature of this team. Injuries and poor play are not, but that's what we've got right now.

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