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The Mailbag takes on Crew Tactics and Lineups

Fans ask about Sanchez, Wahl, and the Crew attack.


Earlier today I asked readers for some of the burning questions around the Crew lineup. The questions fell all over the field from Tyson Wahl at left back to shifting around the Crew's 4-2-3-1/4-4-1-1 to get more attackers on the field.

Ryan (@ou_Country) wanted to know about Matias Sanchez: "Whats the scoop on Sanchez? Lots of talk about him prior to the season & no pitch time."

He's talented, but he's limited in what he can do. He's a ball playing defensive midfielder that can break forward if needed. With the Crew chasing the game, that is what he did against Vancouver and looked solid.

When he was asked to be the single holding midfielder against the Union a couple of weeks ago, he was exposed. Robert Warzycha chose Kevan George over him in Montreal. This doesn't bode well a successful Crew tenure.

I've also seen him in the reserves and he looked solid against a very young Fire squad, but he didn't do anything that screamed he should be taking over from Agustin Viana or Danny O'Rourke.

I think he can still contribute if he's in the right system. His talents are wasted if he's asked to stay at home like Warzycha has asked O'Rourke and Viana to do, but he can be the more mobile and attacking part of a double pivot central midfield. He's comfortable with the ball at his feet and has solid vision to pick out his pass.

Kensean (@KenseanCrew) asks: "Could you discuss the LB position? Tyson isn't doing it for me. Viana/Anor/Barson, I'd like your take."

I wasn't sold on Tyson Wahl as the starter when the Crew signed him. He seemed to be a stopgap solution who just ended up being a starter. That said, he's been mostly solid. His defense has been average and he's served in a handful of decent crosses.

While his performances have been acceptable, the team can still upgrade at the spot. Warzycha has settled on Viana at defensive midfield and he wasn't a standout when he did play left back during the preseason.

Barson has played some left back, but he's more comfortable on the right. He suffers from the same problem as Josh Williams, he's right footed. He would be playing his weaker foot when trying to cross the ball. I'd expect Williams to come back to the left and Barson replacing him on the right if they needed to make the switch.

The most intriguing option is Bernardo Anor. I'm not sure when he's supposed to be back to full fitness, but I can't imagine him being ready for another month at the earliest. He's not a defender by trade, but I think that the position switch suits him. He would be facing a lot of competition on the left wing behind Ben Speas, Eddie Gaven, and Justin Meram. He has the chance to be a valuable commodity, an attack minded left footed defender.

Hilary (@Hils4Crew) writes: "I'd like to know if you think that a line-up that contains Oduro, Arrieta, Speas, and Higuan is feasible? Strengths/weaknesses?"

I'm imagining that Gaven will stay in the lineup too. That lineup could take shape in a couple different ways, keeping the formation as it is or switching up tactics. The simplest way to make this happen is to keep the same formation, but withdraw a defensive midfielder.

This is the formation that the Crew used against the Union in the 2nd half. O'Rourke and Gaven played centrally with Higuain above them. It was effective as Philadelphia could no longer double team Higuain as Gaven gave the Crew other offensive options in the middle.

THis does require a lot of two way work from Gaven. When Warzycha replaced O'Rourke with Sanchez, Gaven pushed forward a little more, and Sanchez was the single holding midfielder, and the Crew started allowing wave after wave of Union pressure.

The other option is that Crew could play two strikers with Higuain behind as an attacking midfielder. Columbus would likely line up with a diamond formation (4-1-2-1-2). It also leaves a lot of space in the middle and often the wide players play narrowly to aid the sole holding midfielder as he's likely trying to cover two players.

Here is where Higuain's mobility works. He will show up all over the field. He's very good at reading the game and can push wide to interchange with Gaven or Speas when they pinch in. There certainly would be a lot of offensive chances, but it would be harder to keep possession.

Formations are all about tradeoffs and finding space. A move to two forwards without dropping an attacker likely means that the Crew are leaving more space right behind the attacking lines. If Columbus were a possession team, that might not matter that much, but since they struggle holding on to the ball and often work off the counter, that can be a serious defensive liability.

Have a question, feel free to leave a comment, email me, hit me up on twitter. Until next time, thanks for reading and writing in.