Most people didn't envision Columbus Crew SC beginning the season with two losses in the opening three games, but that is where the team stands.
With important international player out against the New York Red Bulls, take always are difficult. With that in mind here is my (mostly) level-headed installment of the 6-Thought Box. I will never leave you for International duty Crew SC fans, regardless of how much you may want me to.
1. Justin Meram is making a case for March Player of the Month?
I promised you level headedness, and you'll get it after this. Could Meram be the Crew SC's Player of the Month in March while only playing one game? The winger missed two of the three games this season and the offense doesn't quite seem to click without him. The dynamic layered attack Columbus deployed against Toronto FC two weeks ago went missing Saturday night. All the pieces are the same except J9. Its only three games so this could be coincidence, Kristinn Steindorsson learning to fit in, or even a fluke with Meram's play against Toronto (they did have 10 men after all.) Whatever the reason, Meram's role in this offense is worth keeping an eye on moving forward.
2. Federico Higuian: The hero turned zero
Higuain played with passion Saturday, which was nice to see as most of the team seemed to struggle to get into the game. The passion that drove him to be (arguably) Crew SC's best player on the night also drove him to essentially obliterate any chance of a comeback.
For those who missed it, Higuain's frustration caused him to pick up a second yellow card for dissent late in the second half and get sent to the locker room early. I like his passion. As a fan it is enjoyable to watch and leaves me satisfied. He simply must rein it in however, as he has now picked up 10 yellow cards in his time with the Black and Gold for dissent. He is hurting the team by not controlling himself since he now misses the next game against the Vancouver Whitecaps.
3. Klute plays the Flute(y?)
Figuratively of course. It is unfair to blame this loss solely on Chris Klute's poor performance, but it certainly didn't help. With Francis likely to miss playing time regularly due to call ups, Klute simply must be better. It is unfair to expect Klute to be a carbon copy of Francis. if he was, theColorado Rapids never would have let him go.
I have spent a while considering the topic of what exactly is the appropriate expectations for a back up? My conclusion is this: Klute's (or any other back up's) job should be to not hurt the team with silly mistakes. I don't expect great plays or even consistent "game changing" type spells during the match. I only expect that for 90 minutes they don't hurt the team. Klute didn't do that tonight, but as playing time increases, I expect him to improve.
4. Sub a dub dub, Finlay in the tub?
I like rhyming, leave me alone. The second half subs baffled me a little bit. Ethan Finlay, I thought, was one of the top players for the team at the time of his substitution. I have always felt that if a coach is going to sub off one of this top players, it better work out, otherwise he should feel the heat after the game. This didn't work out and now I am applying the heat.
Crew SC head coach Gregg Berhalter has proven that he makes genius moves when acquiring players, but his substitutions have been questionable so far this year. He knows his team better than I do, so perhaps he knows Finlay isn't able to go 90 minutes yet, but my eyes tell me the Black and Gold are far better with him on the field than off.
5. I don't have a rhyme... but a disjointed early season has hurt Crew SC
It is hard for me to get too upset about these losses due to how the season has played out so far. Okay, maybe that's a lie. I am very upset about the losses, but I shouldn't be. Consider Berhalter's life right now: Meram suspended to start the season, an off week last week, international losses, Tony Tchani suspension, and Wil Trapp Injured. It is no wonder Crew SC at times appear to be a little lost right now. As the season progresses, continuity will develop and this team will show their true colors. It's a long season and the goal should be to put the Black and Gold in the best position to make a MLS Cup Playoff run. These early struggles will help that.
6. Pot, meet kettle
A little over 10,000 (announced) fans at Saturday's game? This isn't good enough readers. Yes, I'm talking to you. Admittedly, I wasn't at the game either, so after I wrote this, I reread it and felt bad about myself.
I know it was cold, but we're from Ohio for goodness sake, the cold shouldn't bother us. 100,000 people pack Ohio Stadium in late November to watch the Buckeyes, but we can't do better than 10,000 (announced) fans to support Crew SC?
Do yourself a favor and check out the numerous upgrades at the stadium. And if you don't like food, come for the game. There isn't a bad seat in the house, and this team puts on a show, win or lose and we at Massive Report aren't the only ones who think so.
Make some friends, eat some food, and better yourself by coming out to MAPFRE stadium.