Early season records can be deceiving, the Crew are at 2-2-0, but there is plenty of debate about what that record means. It's certainly been an up and down opening month to the season.
They were shutout and outplayed in Colorado, but came back strong in a win against the expansion Montreal Impact, a team reduced to 10 men. They squeaked past Toronto two weeks ago before being blown out by New York.
Realistically, the team probably should be at 2 wins and 2 losses. Colorado has always been problematic for the Crew. Columbus absolutely needed to record wins against Montreal and a Toronto team that were blown out 3-0 at home the week before by San Jose. New York are the hottest offensive team in MLS and the Crew unfortunately played them at the exact wrong time.
Going forward though, Columbus will need to address a few considerable problems that remain to rise to the upper tier of the weaker Eastern Conference. The lineup may have to be juggled and tactics need to be tweaked to get the most of the team's talent.
The first tweaks will need to be in style of play. The Crew lack an ability to hold possession, despite having some players who are gifted with the ball at their feet. The biggest reason is that the ball often bypasses the midfield. Defenders will often boot the ball upfield if there is even moderate pressure. The Crew often gift possession right back.
Obviously, the back line have to make the shorter pass, but that option has to be there for them. Often, the midfield will drop too far back and there isn't an outlet option. If there is an outlet, the forward line is often too high to link up effectively. The team will have to make a concerted effort to play out of the back.
The Crew still also need to address the inconsistency in the lineup. Shaun Francis has struggled defensively but has created on offense. There really isn't anyone to push him for a starting spot yet. Kirk Urso has also been inconsistent. His defensive work often isn't up to MLS standards yet, but his set pieces have been pretty good. In these cases, Coach Warzycha appears to be tilting the balance towards a players offensive contributions.
The other possibility is that the team doesn't have the depth to press for Urso and Francis starting jobs. Nemanja Vukovic recently signed as an option at left back, but has only found minutes with the reserves. Midfielder Tony Tchani hasn't broken back into the lineup since being benched after the game in Colorado. It could be that they aren't performing well enough to get playing time.
The team has also suffered through poor performances out of a couple of veteran performers. Eddie Gaven hasn't looked dangerous since returning from his ankle injury and Sebastian Miranda has been poor defensively and a non factor in the attack several games this year. The Crew will need better play out of their veteran right side to start winning games.
The Crew have 6 points on the year and are in playoff position in a very weak eastern conference. There is some talent on this team, but they have to be the well drilled, team defense group of early 2011. It may be boring, but it got results. That's probably better than an watching a 5 goal match when Columbus is on the wrong end of a 4-1 scoreline.