Birchall gathering steam. (Fahmi/MassiveReport.com)
This time a shift paid off as the Crew looked much more composed with the ball.
- The offense looked much more lively with the change in formation. The 4-2-3-1 was nearly ideal to suit the strengths of 3 shifty and creative players.
- Despite the better showing in the first half, the Crew only got off 3 shots, only 1 on goal. They would get 8 more in the 2nd half as they would counterattack well.
- Justin Meram and Dilly Duka took advantage of their wide roles to take on players on the wings and create their own shots. Crosses seemed to be a secondary goal from the wingers, probably a good idea given Arrieta isn't much of an arial threat.
- Eddie Gaven floated from touchline to touchline sitting behind Jairo Arrieta. He played tidy possession building passes while being opportunistic to open the defense.
- The two holding players, Cole Grossman and Chris Birchall, shut down the middle of the field quite well. The backup gave Birchall the chance to sprint forward on his goal. It's something that happens too rarely from the Crew.
Gruenebaum (7): Wasn't tested early, but stepped up again to record shutout number 7.
Miranda (6): Shaky at moments, especially his header back towards goal that Gruenebaum parried away. He was often more composed on the ball and kept Chris Pontius quiet.
Mendes (6): A very solid and dependable 90 minutes. He often made the smart play or pass to keep D.C. from clear chances.
Marshall (7): A return to fine form cut short by his ankle injury. He was dominant across the entire back line.
Williams (7): Very unlucky to not get his first goal. Rarely tested as D.C. stayed away from his side.
Birchall: (7): Tenacious in his holding role and played short passes. His run and goal were a joy to see. Service could be better though.
Grossman (5): Tried to do a little much at times, but very sharp when he played a short passing game. Not very imposing on defense, but mostly solid.
Meram (6): Found little cracks of space and did get off his shot, often off target. Passing a bit sharper than usual, but he still struggled with seeing the right pass. He's still sub par on defense.
Gaven (7): A quiet but very influential performance. He didn't show up on the stat sheet, but he was integral to keeping the ball.
Duka (7): Pressed on heavily on defense and was a terror on the left side. He wasn't afraid of taking on players or firing off a speculative shot. Will be a big force as he gets fully healthy.
Arrieta (6): His assist showed excellent vision to catch Birchall's run. He also worked very hard off the ball until he tired around the 65th minute. Showed flashes of his quality.
Finlay (5): Still struggled to make an impact as he was searching for the game.
James (5): Played a part of the Crew's furious late rear guard action and was solid, if not spectacular. Looks like he is till getting up to game speed.
Gehrig (NR): Not enough time to grade.
Coaching (6): Shifted to a more dynamic formation and it freed up Gaven, Duka, and Meram. The back line and two holders gave Williams and Miranda freedom to go forward.
Note on Grades: I have set 5 as an average performance. The player had both good and bad events on the field. Under 5 is a disappointing performance. Above 5 is a notable performance.