Wil Trapp will be out for the pivotal match this week against East leading New York Red Bulls and Gregg Berhalter has a decision to make, who replaces his standout defensive midfielder. Previously, Mohammed Saied was the easy choice, but now it appears Kevan George is in the running for playing time.
Saied has 16 starts and has played in 23 games while amassing 1460 minutes in 2015. He was Berhalter's preferred choice during Trapp's long injury layoff. He made 15 straight starts paired with Tony Tchani as the team's holding midfielder.
Saied's strengths are obvious. He's smooth with the ball at his feet and a deft passer. He gets into the attack and can create chances. Those are valued tools in Crew SC's possession based attack, but may not be as useful as the key player to shield the often stretched defense. Crew SC went 13 straight games without a shutout with Saied starting at defensive midfield.
Kevan George is a more limited player. He's only made five appearances with two starts in 2015 and spent the first part of the year with the Austin Aztex USL team to get playing time. George however is a defensive midfielder by trade. He's comfortable shielding the defense while working to maintain possession. He can stifle an attack with a timely tackle or interception.
Taking a look at the stats (all per 90min), the difference between the players becomes clearer. Saied's stats are from 2015 while George's are collected from 2013 through 2015, the years Opta has stats available.
Saied passes more, with better accuracy, and creates more chances. He'd be an excellent replacement for Tchani or Higuain to help guide the offense from the middle of the field. He's an offensive spark when Crew SC need a goal. He's not as vaulable when Columbus needs to prevent goals as his defensive numbers aren't as good.
This is where George edges out Saied. The numbers are fairly close, but George is the better tackler and cuts out more passes. This lends itself to the interpretation that his technique and positioning are better than Saied's. George gets into more defensive situations and performs better there.
Saied is likely the better player, but George may be the better fit for what Crew SC need. The Crew SC defense is leaking goals and may not be able to cover for adding another attacking minded player into the lineup in Saied. A midfield with Higuain and Tchani would be short on defensive industry. The news that Berhalter is considering both players suggests that he is more heavily weighing the defensive contributions as he decides. The Crew SC backline likely appreciates that.