Category Archives: Columbus Crew SC

Columbus Crew SC

Clinched It – Columbus Crew

Hilary - Columbus Crew/mlsfemale
Official Columbus Crew Reporter

By Hilary // @hils4crew

Saturday, September 30: 2-0 Win

On Saturday night, Columbus Crew SC did what they did not look able to do in the middle of the season—clinch a playoff spot.  What spot they actually finish in is still unknown, but Crew SC will play at least one playoff game during the 2017 MLS season. 

Columbus Crew SC won 2-0 against one of their oldest rivals, DC United, who had a familiar face in the net.  Former Crew SC keeper Steve Clark was picked up by DC and faced his former teammates.  There wasn’t a lot Steve could have done to stop Crew SC’s two goals though.

In the first quarter of the game, Crew SC seemed to dominate play.  Josh Williams headed in an Higuain corner kick in the 14’ to score the game’s first goal.  Clark was pretty much left out to dry by his defense who left Josh unmarked.

In the middle of the game, it was much more of a back and forth match, but unlike earlier in the season, I never felt a sense of dread that Crew SC might let DC back into this match.  Their unbeaten streak has given the team a much-needed boost of confidence and camaraderie, which has started to radiate into the stands as well.

This isn’t to say that DC didn’t have their chances, but Zack Steffen continues to make great saves.  I hope that at some point the USMNT take notice of Steffen.

In the 56’, Artur sent a ball across the field toward Jimenez who let the ball go through his legs to Justin Meram.  Meram hit a beauty of a shot into the far side of the goal.  As the ball went toward the goal, I was pretty sure he was going to miss.  I couldn’t have been more wrong, and I don’t think Clark had a chance to save the shot.  I don’t think many keepers could have saved it. 

Other thoughts about the match and Crew SC happenings:

TIFOSweat gets a huge shout out for the large TIFO they did to honor Frederico Higuain who had given all of us the impression that this might be his last season in the black and gold. 

However, not only did Crew SC clinch the playoffs this week, but they also locked up Pipa for another year.  Did the TIFO play a role in his decision?  No one will ever know, but I’m going to go with yes.  He is essential to this team, as I’ve said all season, so I’m glad to see him back for another year.  Now, we just need to lock up Artur.

You can tell both Pipa and Santos grew up playing soccer with a similar mindset.  They are often at the same place on the field at the same time.

If you had asked me to make a bet at the beginning of the season who I thought our starting center backs would be by the end of the season, I would have lost that bet.  Who would have thought Josh Williams and Mensah would be our center back pairing?  But it works.  They look much more confident than any other pairing we have seen this year. 

Finally, I know there was talk on Twitter, and apparently Facebook, about how to handle facing Steve Clark.  Some people wanted to boo him before and after the game and some during the game.  People can obviously do whatever they want to do within reason.    During the game, I laughed when we scored on him and some chanted, “Steve says, ‘Yes!’” as some good-natured ribbing during the game is part of the sport. 

However, I was proud that before the game and after the game the fans cheered Steve.  Despite the goal that will live in infamy during the 2015 MLS Cup, Steve was a solid keeper for this team.  He brought spirit and leadership to a team that desperately needed it, and he loved the fans of this club.  Steve Clark will always be a Crew SC player that I respect and who played lights out soccer in a system where the defense in front of him isn’t always a keeper’s best friend.  Despite how much I respect Steve though, I was glad we scored two goals.

After a break in the action, Crew SC picks back up and plays its last two games on the road to see which playoff spot it will actually have.  And I am going to enjoy the journey.

Featured image courtesy: @JustinMeram

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Crew SC Unbeaten in Seven

Hilary - Columbus Crew/mlsfemale
Official Columbus Crew Reporter

By Hilary // @hils4crew

Saturday, September 23: 3-2 Win

While the calendar says September, Saturday night at Mapfre Stadium felt like the middle of July as Columbus Crew SC took on the New York Red Bulls in the continued hunt for a playoff spot.

Crew SC rolled out the same line-up that started at Vancouver with two exceptions–Mensah returned at centerback and Justin Meram returned to left wing.  This time, however, we had a different result than Vancouver with a 3-2 win for the Black and Gold.

Scoring started with Crew SC in the 6’ as Higuain sent in a free kick that Mensah headed into the net.  You could see the joy on the center back’s face as he celebrated his goal with the team. 

New York was quick to tie it up in the 14’.  Columbus felt one of the New York players had been offsides, but the AR did not make the call and Bradley Wright-Phillips finished the goal.  BWP was given much too much space regardless.  With a goal scorer like that, defenders should not give him any space. 

Santos was fouled in the 39’, but the ref let play continue on to the Crew’s advantage.  Ola Kamara, virtually alone as a defender tried to catch up with him, tried to chip the keeper to tie the game, but he overshot the goal.  Kamara continues to miss the chances you think he should finish and finish shots that look nearly impossible.

Crew SC took the lead again in the 54’ when Meram took on two New York defenders and shot the ball into the net.

In the 66’, Josh Williams who apparently didn’t want to be outdone by his center back partner decided it was time for a goal.  His first since 2013.  He headed in a Higuain corner kick for goal number three of the game.

New York wasn’t done yet.  In the 69’, Mensah fouled Gonzola Veron.  There was some heated argument from both sides as the foul occurred outside the field of play but kept Veron from getting to the ball.  After video review, the Red Bulls were granted the penalty kick, which Veron finished. 

Crew SC was able to hold the Red Bulls off resulting in a victory and 3 more points toward making the playoffs.

Some thoughts on the match:

Pipa had all three assists in this match.  He continues to show why he is a central cog for this team

Meram scored a goal.  It was pretty.  However, there are a lot of times when he should pass and doesn’t.  I don’t want him to stop trying to take on defenders.  I just wish his judgment on when to do this and when to pass would improve.

The refs in this game were horrible.  As a player, I was always taught you play the refs’ game.  Arguing calls wasn’t going to help, so you don’t.  Those words to live by would have gone down the drain had I been a player on the field on Saturday night.  I think the officiating wasn’t great for either team.

After the Red Bulls scored their second goal, I grew concerned that this would turn into another game like Vancouver where they scored to tie it up near the end of the game.  Or, it would be like earlier in the season where we gave away a lead.  I was pleased to see that Crew SC can finish out a match as I’m sure this skill will be necessary if we plan on winning any playoff games.

I do not understand Sacha Kljestan’s moustache.  Please someone explain it to me….

This season has gone incredibly fast and next Saturday is Columbus Crew SC’s last regular season home game against DC United.  It would be nice to get 3 points from this match and help solidify a playoff spot.

Featured image courtesy: @ColumbusCrewSC

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Columbus Crew SC vs. Sporting Kansas City

Hilary - Columbus Crew/mlsfemale
Official Columbus Crew Reporter

By Hilary // @hils4crew

Sunday, September 10: 1-1 Draw

On a sunny Sunday afternoon, Columbus Crew SC played Sporting Kansas City to a pretty uninspiring draw in one of Crew SC’s final three home games of the regular season. 

Kansas City struck first scoring a goal in the 19’ on an unnecessary failed bicycle clearance by Jonathan Mensah.  SKC’s Cristian Lobato took the missed clearance and nutmegged Crew SC’s keeper while he was trying to stop the shot. 

There were a few opportunities for Crew SC in the first half to equalize, and they felt like the more dominant team.  In first half stoppage time, Ola Kamara headed in a beautiful goal off a Pedro Santos’ corner kick to finish the half with a 1-1 draw.

The second half didn’t provide a lot to write home about.  This could have been a game like many others earlier in the season where Crew SC gave away a draw for a loss, but they held on for a point. 

Some thoughts about the game:

Pedro Santos is good.  Really good.  I don’t want Kei Kamara back, but I’m pretty sure if he was, Pedro would put every corner kick or set piece directly on to his head.   He can see the field and the plays before they happen.  I think he will be Schelotto-like—making all the players around him even better as he grows to know his teammates, and they grow to know him.

What is with both Santos and Higuain standing together to take corner kicks?  Is it to confuse the defenders with who may kick the ball?  It’s a corner kick.  Most of the time, it is going into the mass of players in front of the goal.  Wouldn’t it be better to have another man in front of the goal or someone to clean up any balls that leak through from the corner kick instead of having two players standing over the ball to kick it?

Honestly, I imagined them having this conversation at the corner flag:

Pipa:  I really should take the corner. I’ve been on the team a long time.  I’m good at it.

Santos:  I’m new.  Let me give it a try.  Plus, if they’re anything like your PK taking ability maybe I should take them…

Then I laughed at my crazy imagination, and figured this is some kind of game plan Gregg has conjured up for corner kicks that I just don’t understand.

Finally, the second half really wasn’t very exciting soccer.  This made Gregg’s substitutions in the second half even more puzzling.  Ola Kamara was subbed out in 64’ for Adam Jahn, Pedro Santos was subbed out in the 65’ for Cristian Martinez, and Jimenez was subbed out for Afful in 84’.   Bringing Afful in, I can understand as he is working his way back from an injury, and I found out later that Kamara is fighting an injury.  However, why not bring on Manneh instead of Jahn for Meram or Kamara?  Why pull Santos off the field? 

It felt like Gregg was playing for the tie, and with Crew SC’s track record of giving up goals earlier in the season, I kind of understand this decision.  However, we are in a precarious spot in the playoff hunt.  We have 1 to 4 games on hand on teams that can challenge us for a playoff spot, and we need all the points we can get. 

Thoughts on the previous week’s happenings:

I’ve been absent writing for the last few games.  Real life has kind of been busy, but I’m back on the beat.  I had some thoughts about the last few matches or off field happenings that I wanted to share:

Nicolai Naess was recently traded.  We evidentially made a profit from his transfer.  He played a great long pass, and he stayed calm on the ball.  I never understood why he got benched.  I feel like his absence is a real loss for the team.  However, I’m happy he will go somewhere he can contribute. 

Frederico Higuain has recently stated that he believes this will be his last season in a Crew SC uniform.  Is this a negotiation tactic?  Who knows?  However, I still feel like Crew SC is a better team with Pipa on it.  I wonder if having someone like Santos on the team that thinks as fast as he does on the field will help change his mind about sticking around for another season.  Seeing Santos and Pipa when they have had even more time to gel on the field would be a sight to behold.

I also know that Ola Kamara wants to renegotiate his contract as well.  This man needs to get paid.  He is our only true forward.  We need to work on bringing someone else in as well because if his injury develops into something more serious, we will be in trouble.  Plus, we just need another forward.

During the LA Galaxy vs. Crew SC game, VAR (video assistant referee) was used three times in pretty significant ways during the game resulting in a PK, red card, and call back of a goal.  All these calls went in Crew SC’s favor.  Being there, I can say it was a crazy short stretch of time.  I’m not sure how I feel about VAR.  It did break up the flow of the game a bit, but I don’t know how often it will impact a game as much as it did this one. 

Finally, I have given Mensah and Abu a lot of criticism this season.  Some justified criticisms–some probably not.  These two have been brilliant in the last few games.  They both seem confident and are working well with their teammates on the field.   Yes, Mensah did make a mistake in this week’s game, but he stayed confident afterward and continued to make strong defensive plays the rest of the game. 

This is a different guy from the beginning of the season.  If the same mistake had happened to him earlier in the season, I think you would have seen shaky play the rest of the game.  Gregg Berhalter may have final found a centerback combination that works and another good center midfield option. 

Hopefully, the team can stay confident and dominant against the Vancouver Whitecaps this Saturday and earn 3 much needed road points to help solidify the road to the playoffs. 

Featured image courtesy: @ColumbusCrewSC

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A Team Win for the Crew

Hilary - Columbus Crew/mlsfemale
Official Columbus Crew Reporter

By Hilary // @hils4crew

Saturday, August 12: 3-1 Win

It was a fun night at Mapfre Stadium Saturday night as Columbus Crew SC defeated the Chicago Fire 3-1. It was a match that could have had a lot more goals in it, but both teams struggled to put away some chances. Crew SC rolled out the same line up they have been sticking with as of late a 3-5-2-1. Some highlights and thoughts on the match:

Crew SC came out attacking and pressuring the ball early. However, they did not keep possession for most of the game. This is one of the few times I don’t feel like the lack of possession hurt them. They may be figuring out how to make this formation successful for themselves.

In the 13’, the Fire scored. Our defense including Steffen just decided Michael deLeeuw was offside, but the refs didn’t agree. This is Soccer 101. Don’t stop playing until the whistle is blown. The Fire has been dominant with wins when scoring first, but not this time….

Artur continues to be the Energizer Bunny on the field. However, he may want to work on his shooting. Artur had many different opportunities to score a goal. The one mentioned above in the 2’, a header in the 5’, and not being able to finish a Manneh cross in the 11’.

Kekuta Manneh’s goal in the 18’ was an example of being at the right place at the right time and being able to finish that opportunity. Artur took a shot that deflected off a Fire defender right to Manneh who was able to put the ball in the back of the net.

The second goal in the 73’ was the result of vintage Francis cross to Meram. It is what got Francis to the All-Star Game in 2015, and it is why I believe Waylon should remain the starter on that side of the field. He also made a key defensive play in the 77’ when he took the ball from a Fire player who would have had an uncontested shot.

Meram scored our second goal, and it was a beauty. It was the 1,000 Crew SC goal. There were times during this game that I was in awe of his movements, and then there were times when I wondered why he was taking extra touches and losing the ball instead of passing it. If Pipa really does leave the Crew SC next year, Meram will have to fine-tune a bit to become the playmaker on this team. I’m confident he can do it.

Harrison Afful played just the first half working himself back from injury. This was a solid performance from Afful, which we haven’t seen a lot this season. It makes me wonder if he’s had lingering injuries for the majority of the season even when he was playing.

This was a must-win game for Crew SC. They are just above the playoff line, and they need to prove that they are a team to contend with. They did, and it was fun to watch.

Schweinsteiger was not as big of a factor in this game as I thought he would be. I don’t know if that’s because of where he was playing or how we played against him.

It was nice to see Matt Lampson back in Mapfre stadium. I really miss his “Off The Post” video clips when he was with Crew SC. If you have never seen them, you should go to YouTube and watch. One time he talked about his favorite song by Amy Grant. Watching those clips usually resulted in me laughing with tears streaming from my eyes. I’m not sure the PK call should have been one. I’ve watched replays, and I still can’t decide. Either way, it was a rough game for Lampson.

On a personal note, for those of you who follow me on Twitter, you know that I am a huge Ethan Finlay fan—my dog is even named after him. His trade to Minnesota broke my heart. While some felt it was time for him to go, I was hoping Ethan would be a Crew SC lifer. He gave 100% every time he was on the field and just exemplified to me what it meant to be a Crew SC player.

My only regret is that I never got to meet Ethan. I wish nothing but the best for Ethan Finlay, and I’ll be paying more attention to Minnesota from now on. I hope they realize what an amazing player and person they have on their team. My last 3 favorite players have either retired or been traded, so I’m trying not to have another favorite player. I don’t know if my heart can take it.

At the conclusion of this match, I couldn’t decide who should be Man of the Match. Overall, everyone played well. It was a team win. This is the way I believe a successful game should feel.

We play Orlando City this Saturday, and to continue our winning ways from this match, we need to continue to have all our players firing on all cylinders. I look forward to watching.

Featured image courtesy: @ColumbusCrewSC

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Crew SC vs San Jose Earthquakes

Hilary - Columbus Crew/mlsfemale
Official Columbus Crew Reporter

By Hilary // @hils4crew

Saturday, August 5: 2-1 Loss

At some point, it just stops being fun—watching your team lose a game that they could have won.  As a Columbus Crew SC fan, it feels like it has happened a lot this year– points slipping through our fingers.   It happened again Saturday night against the San Jose Earthquakes as Crew SC lost 2-1. 

Some thoughts about the match:

  • Even though he was scored on twice, Zack Steffen played a great game.  In the 20’, he saved a Wondo header, and he denied Wondo again in the 46’.  In the 87’, Steffen had a one vs. one save.  I would imagine it’s hard to keep going if you are the Crew SC keeper when your defense hangs you out to dry, but Steffen plays with intensity and won my vote for man of the match.
  • During the first 12 minutes and periodically throughout the game, I thought to myself, “Wow, we are moving the ball incredibly well.”  There were a lot of first touch passes, and we controlled the field during those times.  This is the team we have to consistently be in order to be successful.
  • We had trouble finishing opportunities.  Ola Kamara had a few chances prior to the 14’ that should have been finished.  Raitala had an opportunity unmarked at the top of the box in the 20.’  In the 73’, Arthur had a pretty shot from distance.  In the 81’, Kamara sent a nice ball to Meram who took a shot that the keeper couldn’t keep his mitts on, but there was no one at the backdoor to finish it off. 
  • Mensah was a mixed bag. He got a well-deserved yellow in the 26’.  He was somewhat culpable for Wondo’s goal in the 57’, but he also headed the corner that led to Adam Jahn’s goal in the 75’. 
  • We did concede 10 corners in the first half, and after that, I stopped keeping track.  It was surprising that none of San Jose’s goals came from them as we kept gifting them corner kick opportunities.
  • The field was awful, awful, awful….  Crew SC players slid or fell at least 6 times during the game, usually in key moments that could have resulted in a cross for us or a defensive block against San Jose.

During away games, I try to keep up on twitter to see others’ responses.  It always ranges.  During and after this game, it was people ready to have Gregg fired, disappointed in our development of players, being frustrated at dropping points again, or unhappiness at the lack of movement so far during the transfer window.  It was people finding the positives in Steffen’s play, cheering on Jahn for his goal, or being excited to see Cristian Martinez get some minutes.   

I am not going to tell any Crew SC fan how to feel.  I know I went through most of those feelings at some point during the game too.  I did not want to sit down and write about another loss.  But I will reiterate one of my tweets from last night.  I appreciate fans looking for the positives in the games or being incredibly upset about the state of the team.  It means we care about the team, that we truly bleed black and gold.  

This team needs passionate fans more than anything, and I know on that we can deliver.  Hopefully, they can deliver a turnaround on the season.  They have done it before, and I’m not ready to count them out. 

Featured image courtesy: @ColumbusCrewSC

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Double Header Against Philadelphia

Hilary - Columbus Crew/mlsfemale
Official Columbus Crew Reporter

By Hilary // @hils4crew

Saturday, July 22: 1-0 win

Wednesday, July 26: 3-0 loss

Essentially, Columbus Crew SC just played the equivalent to a baseball double header playing the Philadelphia Union on Saturday and then again Wednesday.

In both games, Crew SC rolled out a 3-4-2-1 line-up utilizing 3 center backs in the backline—Jonathan Mensah, Alex Crognale, and Lalas Abubakar. The only change in the starting line-up between the two games was at right back—Harrison Afful played in the first game and Hector Jimenez in the second.

The first time this strategy yielded a 1-0 Crew SC victory. The defense held, but without Federico Higuain, the offense didn’t quite have the same movement that it could have had. Ola Kamara had a nice volley, but it was saved by Philadelphia’s keeper. The lone goal was scored on a deflection off a defender from a Justin Meram shot.

This formation does not allow for pretty soccer, but if our typical line up isn’t firing on all cylinders, then it isn’t attractive either. It also does not allow for a lot of possession. It was about 50/50 during the first game. It is a formation that allows us to grind out a result and that is what we did.

However, that all came to a halt in the second game of the double header. I’m not going to lie. I was really thankful that this was an away game, and I didn’t have to watch this one in person. Everything that Crew SC has struggled with was present in this game in a perfect storm that resulted in a 3-0 loss.

The defense fell apart. There were bad clearances, men unmarked at the top of the box, and men unmarked on the back post. Now, granted, Philadelphia’s first goal contained a pretty bicycle kick assist, but if there hadn’t been a bad clearance the assist wouldn’t have been possible.

Jonathan Mensah committed a red card foul in the 35’ that left the Crew SC a player down. Our DP has struggled all season to adjust to the MLS and Crew SC, and it is becoming evident that he may not be able to adjust at all.   Then, Lalas Abubakar received a red card in the 76’ leaving Crew SC with 9 players on the field.

Finally, we didn’t have that many opportunities, and we couldn’t finish the opportunities we did have. We only had 2 shots on target. Kamara had one he could have tapped in but hit the post.

If you ask any Crew SC fan what our issues are on the field, I’m sure these things would be mentioned. In this game, they were all blatantly present.

A lot of fans are frustrated, and I understand it.   I feel for the guys on the field. They want to win, they care. So, I’ll keep cheering them on from the stands and from my couch when they are playing away from home.

Hopefully, they come out firing on all cylinders against Real Salt Lake this Saturday.

Featured image courtesy: Bill Streicher/ USA Today

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Crew vs Atlanta and Minnesota

Hilary - Columbus Crew/mlsfemale
Official Columbus Crew Reporter

By Hilary // @hils4crew

This past Saturday, there were fireworks at Mapfre Stadium.  Not because the game was fantastic, but because there were actually fireworks after the game.  It’s a good thing there were fireworks.  Otherwise, the crowd may not have stuck around to watch the whole game as Columbus Crew SC lost to Atlanta United 2-0.

The game seemed choppy from the get go—neither team really finding their flow.  It seemed like there were a lot of tiny fouls that constantly got called, and the passing never really seemed to move.

Both goals were scored by Atlanta’s Hector Villalba in the 27’ and 64’.   Gregg Berhalter tried subbing in Manneh and Jahn to make a difference like in the previous game, but unlike last game, the subs couldn’t turn the game around.  It’s a game that begs to be forgotten. 

Some plays that caught my attention:

  • On Atlanta’s first goal, Mensah missed a header he should have had.  He played more confidently in the second half, winning challenges, and stepping to the ball more, but he still hasn’t found firm footing within the backline.
  • Afful also seemed to have moments of struggle having his pocket picked by Almiron in the 11’ that resulted in a sharp shot off the post.

Then, on Tuesday, Crew SC played another unremarkable game against Minnesota United resulting in a 1-0 win for the Black and Gold.  Berhalter did some significant changes to his formation most likely due to a combination of poor play against Atlanta and the quick turnaround time between games.

He rolled out a 3-4-3 lining up Naess, Crognale, and Abubakar in the back, resting Higuain who didn’t even dress for the 18, playing Jimenez for Afful, and starting Manneh over Meram who came off the bench in the 63’. 

The team didn’t see many chances in the first half, and outside of the last ten minutes of the first half didn’t seem to have much possession either.   Although, I don’t think the lineup Berhalter played is meant to be as possession-oriented as our typical formation. 

In the second half, Minnesota had many opportunities to attack.  Eventually though, Crew SC placed their own attack.  Manneh did a spin move to break away from a Minnesota defender.  No one else stepped up, giving him space, so he made a shot from outside of the 18 resulting in his second goal in three games. 

 

After Meram came in, we seemed to have more of an offensive spark.  He crossed a ball to Finlay in the 66’ that Finlay missed but should have put away.  In the 73’, Meram sent a beautiful through ball to Ola Kamara who just didn’t bend his shot enough to hit the back of the net. 

In the 77’, Meram sent another pretty ball to Ola who sent it back to him, but Meram held the ball probably a step too long.  While he got the rebound off his own mishit, Meram couldn’t put it away.  He had another opportunity in the 80’ when Ola Kamara passed him the ball, but Meram sent it a tad wide of the goal.  Regardless, Crew SC ended the game with a win going into an 18-day break from MLS action.

Some thoughts about this game:

  • Without Pipa and Meram, we really do lack an offensive spark.  There was a different energy when Meram entered the match.
  • I thought rookie Abubakar did a nice job in his MLS debut.  I thought Abu who has been shaky in some of his previous appearances also played a solid game.
  • I was disappointed to see Naess subbed out early in the first half due to what appeared to be an injury.   He hasn’t seen much playing time lately, and I think he is one of our stronger CBs.  So, I was hoping this would be an opportunity for him to earn his way back to consistently starting.
  • This needs to be a formation that Gregg Berhalter uses more often.  We ground out a result, and I feel that if we were more comfortable with this formation it would be even more effective.  It’d be nice to have other options. 

The inconsistency of this Crew SC team always leaves you guessing.  Which as a Crew SC fan can be frustrating, but it also makes every game intriguing.  Who will show up?  We may never know, but I know we will be there cheering for our team.

Featured image courtesy: Columbus Crew facebook

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Columbus Crew vs Impact

Hilary - Columbus Crew/mlsfemale
Official Columbus Crew Reporter

By Hilary // @hils4crew

Saturday, June 24: 4-1 Win

It was a pretty night both weather and win-wise in Crew-ville Saturday night as Columbus Crew SC defeated the Montreal Impact 4-1. 

My regular Crew SC partner in crime was traveling, so I brought a friend with me who used to have her own season ticket before moving away.  She hasn’t been to a game in several years.  So, it was fun listening to her take on the team.  During the first half, the two comments she made about the team that stuck out to me were:  “They seem like they play very lackadaisical,” and “Why do they keep playing backward?  They need to attack and go forward.” 

I don’t disagree with her observations.  I frequently think the team comes out too slow and doesn’t move the ball fast enough.  They either start the game without intensity or lose it as the game progresses, which I think has been an issue for them all year.  As for playing out of the back, I tried to explain that it is part of Berhalter’s style of play, but when I tried to describe the benefits of that style of play, I couldn’t.  Gregg has been tweaking his style of play this year and probably needs to continue to do so. 

With this astute assessment, it wasn’t surprising that the first half showed us slipping into the same pattern of play that have plagued us this season.  Pipa sent a beautiful free kick into the net in the 17’.  The team was joyful and confident.  That ended 2 minutes later when Montreal tied it up after a poor give away by Higuain and as Crew SC’s defense scrambled to unsuccessfully shut down Montreal. 

Then, the second half started, and Montreal dominated possession for the first five minutes of the half.  My only thought was, “Oh no, here we go again.”  I was sure we were going to give away a lead turned tie for a loss. 

However, Crew SC proved me wrong.  They held strong until reinforcements arrived in the form of Kekutah Manneh who was subbed into the match in the 69’ for Justin Meram and Adam Jahn who was subbed into the match in the 87’ for Ola Kamara.

Manneh scored his first Crew SC goal in the 70’ that Ola Kamara dead stopped for him right outside the 6’ box, and then Manneh assisted Kamara 2 minutes later.  Then in the 88’, Pipa scored another goal when Zack Steffen sent a long ball that Adam Jahn headed to Higuain. 

These were pretty goals.  This is the kind of attacking soccer that when Crew SC plays, they win.   Let’s hope they continue this kind of attack against Atlanta United this Saturday.

Random Thoughts:

  • I feel like a broken record….  Injury-free Higuain continues to dominate having scored in the last 4 games.  Those lamenting us keeping Higuain at the beginning of the season are probably glad we did now.  Let’s keep the scoring streak going Pipa!
  • As a very biased Finlay fan, I know he hasn’t scored or assisted since the start of the season, but his work rate kept the defense tired and resulted in multiple corner kicks.  He also drew the foul that provided Higuain with the free kick to score Crew SC’s first goal of the game.  His time will come.   
  • I was surprised to see Justin Meram subbed off in the 69’, but I think Montreal limited his match to some degree.  I’m sure they didn’t want another hat trick from Meram like the last time these two teams faced each other this season, and Montreal gave him slightly less room to maneuver.
  • Okay, I need to discuss Jonathan Mensah.  In the 33’, he sent a ball over to Zack Steffen when Zack had a Montreal Impact player nearby unmarked.  It was a big gaffe.  One that made everyone in my section ready to throw in the towel on Mensah.  However after watching the replay, it looked like he was trying to send the ball to Harrison Afful across the field and mishit the ball, which happens from time to time.  However, he seems to go backwards with the ball too often even when he has players forward to pass to.  At the beginning of the season, I figured it was due to adjusting to a new league, team, and system.  I gave him the benefit of the doubt.  Now, I just don’t know.  I’m starting to wonder if the game is getting to him mentally and causing him to make even more mistakes.   I’m starting to become okay with the idea of leaving him on the bench despite his big paycheck.  I look forward to the time next season when Gaston Sauro is healthy, and he can pair with Naess in the back.

Featured image courtesy: Columbus Crew facebook

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Drop ‘Em Like They’re Hot

Hilary - Columbus Crew/mlsfemale
Official Columbus Crew Reporter

By Hilary // @hils4crew

Columbus Crew SC is dropping points like they are too hot to hold.  Some fans are getting restless.  Some are keeping the faith.  Some are just turning off their TVs because their black and gold hearts can’t take it any more. 

Crew SC continued their point-dropping trend in Atlanta this past Saturday.  Dropping a possible point by allowing Atlanta United to score two goals after tying up the game.  Ending the game with a score of 3-1 Atlanta.

I couldn’t bring myself to watch another game where the wheels came off.  Nor could I bring myself to write about it, so I decided to do a brief look back at the season’s point dropping debacles (where we had a lead or a tie and gave it away) and where we are compared to where we could have been. 

–March 4th against Chicago Fire

Crew SC has the lead in the 17’ and loses the lead in the 73’.  They end in a 1-1 tie.  Crew SC gives up 2 points.

–April 29th against NYCFC

Crew SC goes into the lead in the 49’ and gives it away in the 64’.  They lose 3-2.  Crew SC gives up 3 points.

–May 10th against Toronto FC

Crew SC scores in the 28’ and drops the lead in the 81’.  They lose 2-1. Crew SC gives up 3 points.

–June 3rd against Colorado Rapids

Columbus scores in the 61’, and we lost the lead in the 80’.  They lose 2-1. Crew SC gives up 3 points.

–June 17th against Atlanta

Crew SC tied it up in the 26’ and then lost the draw in the 67’.  They lose 3-1. Crew SC gives up a point.

Columbus Crew SC currently sits 6th in the East with 22 points and a game in hand over most teams in the East.  If we gained all the points I listed above instead of dropping them, we would have 12 more points, and we would be at the top of the Eastern Conference with 34 points.  We would also be on the top of the Supporters’ Shield standings.  In reality, I know it isn’t possible to win every one of those games, but even if Crew SC had held on to some points with ties, we would be in a much better position than we are now.

The majority of these give-aways are happening in the 70’ or later.   Is this due to physical or mental fatigue?  Is it the way we are using substitutions?  Is it at this point in the game where we need to be making some tactical shifts? 

I don’t know the answer, but Crew SC better discover it soon if they want to find the magic from the beginning of the season and soothe the hearts of their fans. 

Featured image courtesy: @ColumbusCrewSC

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Crew vs Rapids

Hilary - Columbus Crew/mlsfemale
Official Columbus Crew Reporter

By Hilary // @hils4crew

Saturday, June 3: 2-1 Loss

Another lead given away, another 3 points dropped, and the cries for a coaching change are growing louder as the Colorado Rapids defeated Columbus Crew SC 2-1 on Saturday night.  Berhalter sent out a different formation than normal, essentially a 3-4-2-1, with three centerbacks in the back—Williams, Crognale, and Naess

There wasn’t a ton to write back home about in the first half.  Crew SC had a few nice chances that they couldn’t seem to finish. 

  • In the 11’, Meram sent a pretty ball through to Kamara who just couldn’t get to it. 
  • Later in the 18’, Wil Trapp got a cleared ball from a Crew SC corner kick, sent a pass to Francis, who sent a gorgeous ball to Pipa, who got it to Kamara who just didn’t get it finished. 
  • In the 26’, Afful sent a mini-chip between two Rapid defenders to Higuain, who sent it to Meram.  However, it was intercepted by the defense before Meram could get to it. 

The Rapids were really limited in opportunities until the 30’ where they had multiple chances including one that forced Steffen to make a double save against Colorado’s Gashi in the 33’.  It’s difficult to explain, but I just didn’t sense extreme intensity radiating from anyone (outside of Pipa) during the first half until about the 33’ when the Rapids had multiple chances. 

The second half seemed to start with more intensity from both sides. 

  • In the 61’, Crew SC broke it open when Justin Meram sent a ball to Higuain who was left open slightly outside the Rapids 18. 
  • Pipa took the shot as Colorado’s Azira came in to challenge the ball. 
  • The shot deflected off of Azira into the Rapid’s net. 

I’m not going to lie.  At this point, I felt pretty good about the possibility of winning this game.  Colorado is at the bottom of the table, and while the Rapids had some good chances earlier in the game, I felt like we had limited their opportunities fairly well.  I had put the earlier leads lost by Crew SC behind me. 

Letting my guard down was a mistake as Colorado scored two goals between the 80’ and 86’.  The 80’ goal found Hairston running through the middle of the field without much of a challenge, allowing him to send the ball to Mo Saied, who crossed it to two Rapid players running unmarked to the backside of our goal where Kevin Doyle was able to finish it.  Then in the 86’, Gordon, essentially unmarked on the backside of the goal, headed the ball in giving Colorado the lead. 

Another lead that Crew SC let slip away.

Random thoughts:

  1. Before the game, I tweeted we should bring Mo Saied back with us.  I don’t know if he’d make a difference on the field for us or not, but I miss Mo’s positive presence.  I did find it amusing that the guy defending him for the majority of the night—Josh Williams–was one of the few Columbus defenders Mo never played with during his time with Crew SC. 
  2. Although our current Mo, Mohammed Abu, had what I thought was a solid game.  He flows much better with his teammates than he did earlier in the season.   
  3. Pipa continues a dominant 2017.  He played another good game and for that, and his game against Seattle, made MLS Team of the Week
  4. While Gregg rolled out a different formation, I wish he had also subbed a bit earlier especially in the higher elevation with a lead.
  5. I will be very disappointed if Meram and Pipa do not get chosen for the MLS All-Star team in some capacity.

Our next game is an Open Cup match against FC Cincinnati on June 14th.  I’m not sure what line up Berhalter will roll out as we have a MLS match against Atlanta United three days later.  Here’s to a win and all players staying healthy throughout that Open Cup game.  (I still miss watching you play Eddie Gaven.) 

Featured image courtesy: @ColumbusCrewSC

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