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The Columbus Crew Striker Debate

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As finishing has been at a premium in recent games, a move was made to change things against the Red Bulls. Results were the same so where does the Crew stand up top?

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The debate continues: Jairo Arrieta or Dominic Oduro up top.

Unless one player firmly locks down the striker position by being dangerous and scoring regularly, the argument will likely continue throughout the season.

Columbus Crew Head Coach Gregg Berhalter has a lot to consider when picking his forward. Not only do the coaches evaluate the form of the players each game and in practice throughout the week, but they also consider the opponent.

Due to Oduro's suspension for the opening game over D.C. United, Arrieta was the default striker and opened the scoring for the Crew. Although the scoring chance was created by great movement and passing by Hector Jimenez and Josh Williams, Arrieta put himself in a good position and finished the chance like a good poacher.

Two games later and Oduro was Columbus' starter at forward against the Seattle Sounders. Berhalter explained the coaches felt Oduro's pace would be more dangerous on the slick Sounders' field turf and the striker did draw a penalty kick.

As the games wore on and Oduro kept his place in the starting lineup, more questions began to arise in regards to Dom retaining his spot. He wasn't scoring, the team wasn't scoring with the same frequency, and the style play was as fluid as the first three games.

In fairness to Oduro, teams were beginning to adapt to the Black and Gold's possession scheme and learning to sit back and absorb the pressure as he became a starter. Even in his role off the bench in Saturday's 1-1 draw with the New York Red Bulls, the opposition dropped deeper when Oduro entered the match in 68th minute.

In nearly the same amount of time this season - 311 minutes played for Arrieta compared to 339 for Oduro - neither player has put a stranglehold on the starting spot. Arrieta has two goals to Oduro's zero, but one of those was a spot kick given to him by Federico Higuain.

Many believe that Arrieta is the better fit for the system Berhalter and his staff prefers to play, with a lone forward. The Costa Rican is more apt to hold up the ball and battle with central defenders. He is consistently active and the type of player that can make the most of one chance.

Oduro offers the speed to get behind the defense and some ability to take on defenders. The issue has been, he has been unable to get in behind due to how deep and compact the opponent has been playing.

Another factor is the players' salaries. Berhalter's decision to start Oduro in four of the seven games could be due to his $250,000 base salary he earned after last year's 13 goal season. Arrieta took an $81,000 pay cut to remain with the Crew after a disappointing three goals in 21 appearances in 2013.

Fans would like to believe performance, not dollar amount, would determine playing time, but it is hard to keep the third highest paid player on a team on the bench.

Both players have demonstrated an ability to score in MLS so until one begins doing so again, there will be valid arguments both ways. It appears Berhalter will evaluate on a week-to-week basis for now, looking for matchup advantages.

Decisions like that are why they pay him the big bucks.