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Shuffling The Lineup Card

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Gaven hasn't had to don the 'keeper gloves, yet.
Gaven hasn't had to don the 'keeper gloves, yet.

The recent switch of Bernardo Anor to left back was brought on by the tight rosters and salary cap situations that all teams play under in MLS. The Crew felt Shaun Francis was less valuable than his near $50,000 and international roster spot. It also left the team with one true left back on the roster.

This situation highlights the situation that's been ever present since the beginning of the year. Not only are the Crew using a new lineup practically every week; Warzycha often will put players in unfamiliar spots, often to mixed effect.

The list is long, Eddie Gaven has played in three spots in midfield and at forward. Tony Tchani moved to right midfield, a spot he played in 6 games during the 2010 season. Forward by trade, Justin Meram has often featured as a left midfielder.

Perhaps the most interesting case is Milovan Mirosevic. The highest profile off season signing was expected to add scoring punch, but he has two goals in 13 games, 12 starts. He often lined up behind the forwards during his time at Universidad Catolica as an offensive catalyst. With the Crew, he's often paired with a defensive midfielder and acts as a box to box midfielder with far more defensive responsibilities. It's certainly altered his offensive impact.

Mirosevic's game is probably more suited to a diamond midfield with a strong holding midfielder behind him. It's not a coincidence that many of his best games have been when he's worked with the veteran Danny O'Rourke allowing him more freedom. In Montreal, he moved up as a withdrawn forward and did get a goal, but it was off of a corner rather than stemming from his position on the field.

Fellow midfielder Tchani has had an up and down year. He started the first game in Colorado as part of the three man central midfielder. He then sat for four games, only to be pressed into action on the right wing, even getting starts over other, more natural wide players.

Looking more comfortable and natural, Tchani has scored twice in June after his move back to the center. His versatility certainly has given his season new life. He still faces plenty of competition for his spot, but he's no longer mired on the bench.

Meram had a three game goal streak in May, but has been quiet since then. He first saw action as a sub in Portland, working on the left wing. He came off the bench and got a goal in the F.C. Dallas game the following week, again playing on the left. He notched goals in road games in San Jose and Seattle, again playing on the left.

He hasn't scored since and his minutes have dwindled during the month of June. He was left on the bench for the Crew's last game with Aaron Schoenfeld, Bernardo Anor, and Dilly Duka getting the nod over him.

He's been a very interesting case. He came out of Michigan with a solid goal scoring record as a forward, but has nearly exclusively been used as a left winger. This is especially odd given the Crew's injury problems at forward and offensive struggles. Warzycha is certainly a coach who goes with what he sees on the practice field and has a set idea of his type of forward. Meram certainly has had chances recently to play and has been uninspiring, but it certainly raises the question what he's capable of at forward.

Anor saw his first game action at left back on Sunday. He's had a couple weeks of intensive practice and worked on it during the preseason, but he's very raw at the position. It's not unheard of for a player to move back as he develops further. Real Salt Lake is trying the same thing with Kenny Mansally. He has plied his trade as a forward and winger with New England, but made his debut at the back.

Warzycha loves outside backs who can spread the field and get forward. Anor can certainly do that. Other players have made the same switch and its a valuable asset to have a player with the skills on the ball in defense. Sometimes tinkering can unearth a gem, Anor isn't there yet, but he's been inconsistent and uninspiring as a left winger so far this year.

The tremendous amount of shuffling Warzycha has done so far this year has put some players into unfamiliar territory. Some of this has been forced by injury and roster constraints, such as the cases of Anor or Tchani. Other reasons are more opaque, as in the cases of Mirosevic and Meram. With the Crew still struggling to get healthy, expect the shuffle to continue.