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Offense is Flowing for Columbus Crew SC but Where has it Come From?

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Crew SC have opened the flood gates offensively as they settle into 2015.

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

The Columbus Crew SC offense is good; that's undeniable after these last two performances. Seven goals in two games, which puts the club at the top of the scoring charts in Major League Soccer with 12 goals on the year.

"I like that the attacking group is getting both goals and assists," head coach Gregg Berhalter said. "I think that's the most important thing. They're looking to each other to play. They're looking for each other for success and that's great."

Forward Kei Kamara's five goals have him tied for the league lead. Winger Ethan Finlay is second in MLS in assists with four. Justin Meram has three goals and one assist. That's plenty of offensive statistics without mention of Federico Higuain.

What makes this group so tough to defend is the unpredictability of the front four players. Higuain naturally moves around the field to get on the ball more frequently, but the others are beginning to interchange positions as well and fill space left by their teammates.

What makes this easy is that Finlay, Kamara, and Meram all are familiar playing across the attacking front. Finlay was selected 10th overall by Crew SC in the 2012 draft and Meram 15th overall in 2011, both as forwards. Kamara spent five years with Sporting Kansas City and the majority of that time he lined up high on the wing.

Each player's skillset makes them capable of fitting different roles in Berhalter's system, but also allows them operate in any of the others. The fluid movement makes each player difficult to track, on top of each player's ability to create.

"Last year, you don't have time to settle into the system that Gregg was bringing," Finlay explained. "It takes a while and he had to figure out guys that could play certain roles and we saw guys throughout the season step up and embrace those roles."

At the same point last year - seven games in - the Black and Gold had 10 goals for, but they came in very different ways. Columbus relied heavily on individual efforts, namely Higuain, early in the season, but now have spread the offense around. Crew SC's playmaker has only one goal and one assist not because he isn't contributing or putting forth the effort, but because he isn't required to do as much.

After struggling to find consistent scoring early in the season, three goals in the opening three games, it appears the offense that Berhalter envisioned has begun to materialize. The Black and Gold are scoring freely, but according to the head coach, there remains room for improvement.

"You always want more and you always want things to be more precise, more accurate," he explained. "We looked at some moves today [from the Philadelphia game] that I thought could have been better, but that's the nature of the game. You always want to improve and you always want to get better, so that's the starting point."

Berhalter's insistence to never be content has rubbed off on his team, as Finlay explained the offense didn't close out the game against the Philadelphia Union well in the second half, despite winning 4-1. Finlay and his teammates want to make sure they're doing everything right, but how do they constantly maintain the offense?

That is the question.

"You never know those things as a coach," Berhalter said. "I don't think any coach knows that. You just keep working on the process. You focus the feedback on the process rather than the outcome, I think that's important. That the guys keep moving, they keep looking for each other, and that's all you can control."