Sunday, March 3, 2019

2019 Crew Season Opens, Concerns

The 2019 MLS season got underway yesterday. As with most years, it was a bit sloppy and incomplete. It is difficult to draw any conclusions until somewhere between week 5 and 10. However! This being my 10th season covering the Crew closely, I feel comfortable in drawing a few thoughts out of the mist and listing them out.

1. Porter's team plays more like a Robert Warzycha team: Or perhaps, because this was more of a NYRB II team practically playing a low block, they made Caleb Porter look more like Crew circa 2012. Sloppy play and very little composed possession in the opponents half.

2. Opportunity lost: Because MLS balances the rosters (best they can) teams with a decided advantage have to get 3 points out of games like this one. Crew playing at home, 1st of the year, against a B lineup... has to turn into 3 points. Even if it's a sloppy win.

3. Crew weaknesses, all over: To the right and left of Federico Higuain are weak spots for Columbus right now. I put some of that on Porter for wanting to bypass the midfield and go somewhat direct, but also because father time is catching up to Justin Meram (who was ineffective yesterday) and Pedro Santos (only 22 passes, 60% completion) has some sort of mental issue when he gets close to goal. There was even a moment late on where he scuffed a shot, went down in a heap and Higuain trotted over as if to say "come on man, let's go, get up." Artur also had a bit of a sloppy game and wasn't able to get into any sort of attacking position, which makes his role somewhat redundant with Trapp in there.

4. Porter overthinking it: With just about the entire team returning, you should have just rolled a solid XI out there from last year and won this game. But he is tinkering with how they play, which is absolutely his right. It's a concern, however, that the team looked a bit lost. Credit goes to NY a little, but that was not exactly a Supporters' Shield-winning lineup out there.

5. Fox Sports Broadcast: Looked like Fox. Production is much improved over Spectrum Sports. I wish the video quality were better, but it is what it is. Neil Sika and Dwight Burgess are back doing what they do giving us long-winded backgrounds on players that nobody asks for instead of calling the game. The GREAT GREAT news is that Chris Doran is on the 97.1 FM radio call. I caught some of it. He is excellent.

6. 17k Showed Up: Nice turnout for a cold home opener for Columbus. If the team hadn't gone through what it went through last year I would say it was a good turnout, but as circumstances are what they are - It was somewhat disappointing. It was a busy sports day in town. The Columbus Blue Jackets had a game earlier and the Buckeye basketball team played at Purdue, but that's always the excuse in town. I'm not sure I expected a sellout, but I'm sure many did.

What's funny about these broad points is that fans of the team will be discussing each of them for the rest of the season.

Most have Columbus finishing middle of the pack this year. I'm not sure anything happened last night to change that prediction up or down, but it did make me feel more confident that this team will end up fighting to make the playoffs after the summer transfer window.

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