Justin Meram Has Evolved!
It's early in the season but I am ready to say that I was wrong on Justin Meram. I predicted that he would have a regression in my "6-Things that can go wrong for the Crew SC this year" article due to a decline in his goal scoring. He still may not score as many goals as last year, but he won't have to in order to be valuable to the Black and Gold.
Meram has improved his game on the ball dramatically since joining the Iraqi national team. He has shown the ability to break the opposition's ankles and thread passes through numerous defenders, setting up chances for Kei Kamara and company. These wrinkles weren't in his game last year. I don't know if this stems from his time with Iraq, seeing the writing on the wall with so many wingers being brought in, or a planned step in his evolution as a soccer player, but Meram has added a layer to his game to make him more than a one trick pony. I can't see him losing his job on the left wing with how he is currently playing.
Tony Tchani and Wil Trapp Need to Get a Room...
...And study the system together. Come on people, get your mind out of the gutter. There was a general lack of synergy between the two holding midfielders last night. I am not overly concerned, as there were two very good reasons for this last night. First, the pair haven't played together much this season so they haven't had the chance to develop cohesiveness yet. Second, head coach Gregg Berhalter said after the game that he changed his tactics against Vancouver to counter attacking. This is a drastic change, as Berhalter was willing to sacrifice possession for position. I think the tactic worked, but it's yet another disruption to chemistry for the holding midfielders early in the season. With more time together I have no doubt the duo will find their form.
It's also important to note that Trapp was substituted at halftime, as he's still dealing with injuries, so it was only 45 minutes of playing time for the duo.
Don't Overreact to the Defensive Struggle
After a night to think about the defensive performance, I come away wondering what can realistically be learned. Berhalter ran out a (mostly) second choice back line, which was protected by the aforementioned struggling holding midfield. They were tasked with defending one of the most dangerous attacks in MLS on the road, on turf. Under the circumstances, conceding two goals seems reasonable.
What I can conclude from this performance is that the Crew SC back up defenders probably shouldn't play all at the same time against a topflight team. But is that a concern? In a salary cap league, depth concerns and weakness are always going to be present. Columbus learned what they have off the bench and it didn't cost them much to do it. A point is a fair result from the game, even with the first team defense.
Kamara is Settling in
Kei Kamara finished two great chances last night. In Houston to start the season the chances were there but the goals weren't. Kamara is settling in and appears to have found a comfort zone in front of the net. His finishing last night was finesse and creative. On his second goal, he used the turf to his advantage by squibbing the ball off it, leaving the keeper with no chance.
On his first goal he made a creative pass to Ben Speas and followed the play to find himself in position to score. His play is refining and we are only four games into the season.
Ben Speas is Legit
I see what Berhalter was saying last year when he said he felt bad for Speas because he is stuck behind Federico Higuain. His decision making was good, his passing was accurate, he looked composed on both sides of the ball, and he seemed to have the trust of his fellow attackers. I liked what I saw out of him and wonder if he may be the first attacking option off the bench by midseason. With more playing time, he could develop into an extremely creative distributer. Game experience will be crucial for his development, and I hope he is able to get it with Crew SC. Remember when Orlando passed over him at the expansion draft? I have a hunch Crew SC fans are about to see how lucky they are that that happen.
This Was a Good Result, but a Win is Needed Saturday
When the final whistle blew, my mind went to the missed finishes and defensive mistakes. After sleeping on it, I think a point was a reasonable result from the game. Morgan Hughes said on the Massive Report Podcast last week that "You can't win a championship in March but you can damn sure loose it." Even though the result was fair, losing to the New York Red Bulls and the Houston Dynamo means the Black and Gold need a win against the New England Revolution if they want to stay in the Supporters Shield race beyond April.