Milovan Mirosevic in the Black and Gold (Photo: Columbus Crew)
Milovan Mirosevic arrived at training Tuesday to great fanfare. He's the key to the 2012 Crew's success in a lot of ways. He's a veteran who expected to be control the flow of the offense. He's also a goal scorer in a midfield that doesn't score goals. He appears to be the piece of the puzzle that the team has missed since 2008.
Talking with Warzycha yesterday, he was still evaluating where Mirošević would play. He's comfortable in central midfield or behind the striker, but Warzycha wouldn't say where his new signing would play on the field, waiting to see how he would interact with the players on the team.
That won't stop me from speculating. The staff is hoping he's the type of player to control the tempo of the game and also score a lot of goals. His record with Universidad Católica is impeccable, he's scored nearly a goal every two games from his midfield position. The Crew can use that type of firepower from an anemic midfield.
The team setup in 2011, however, had a more conservative central pairing. Emmanuel Ekpo (or Dejan Rusmir) played with Kevin Burns, Danny O'Rourke, or Tony Tchani. Both Ekpo and Rusmir had extensive defensive responsibilities, working with the holding midfielder. It prompts the question of where Mirosevic is best used.
Where Mirosevic plays will dictate how the rest of the team is set up. He has played as a trequarista in a 4-4-1-1 formation or as an offensive minded midfielder in a 4-4-2, sitting behind the strikers. The Crew could certainly use him in either position.
He would certainly be able to indulge his nose for goal as a trequarista. Sitting in the offensive third, he would be able to link up with the single striker while looking to get the wings involved in play. This would also ensure defensive stability as Warzycha could utilize two holding players behind him to free him up to go forward and cover for the advance of the wingers and overlapping fullbacks.
The drawback is that in an advanced position, he wouldn't have as many players to work with as play catches up with him. He would have his strike partner and the trailing wingers to link up with. This setup would seem to slow the pace of attack as he would have to wait for attacking numbers.
Mirosevic's ability to time his runs from midfield and vision on the field are better utilized as the offensive minded central midfielder, paired with a holding mid, like O'Rourke. He could spread the ball around and then move off the ball. It also frees him up to be the trailing attacker as the Crew presses forward, looking for a cut back pass from the wings or ready to clean up on loose balls in the box. Many of his goals come from trailing the play and finding the seam in the defense.
His offensive role in midfield would require greater defensive work from others on the team. His attacking forays would the Crew short of defensive numbers. Eddie Gaven may be a natural choice to tuck in centrally to cover for the inevitable gaps left by an offensive minded player like Mirosevic. The team ideally would have a quick defensive midfielder who can cover a lot of ground. O'Rourke fits that description.
Mirosevic is an outstanding pickup and one that prompts quite a few questions. He's an offensive force in a position that hasn't had one in recent seasons and the coaches need to put him in the best position to influence play. However, he also needs defensive cover. It's unlikely that a single defensive screener would be able to handle covering the entire central midfield. Mirosevic's success, partially, hinges on how well Warzycha finds the balance between defense and offense. He has an entire preseason to figure it out.