Morale is low, at least among supporters of Columbus Crew SC. A solid four-game stretch, including an excellent comeback victory over New York Red Bulls a week ago seems a distant memory after the Black & Gold laid a very familiar egg on the road at Montreal Impact on Saturday night. A slow start led to a 2-0 deficit, which led to a 3-0 loss as Columbus was again wasteful and at times careless.
We can ask the real Crew SC to stand up, but this may be the real Crew SC — the club that hasn't won a single time on the road this season and appears the soccer-ing translation of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. For now, I settle for asking what did and did not happen against the Impact.
Where was Kei's help?
Montreal did a tremendous job defending Kei Kamara by constantly forcing him to receive the ball in areas that he couldn't do much harm. He'd find himself with his back to goal and three or four defenders surrounding him. Credit goes to the Impact for that. But where was the off-the ball movement by Crew SC to provide other options? Where was help for Kamara? Where were the attacking adjustments to find ways to get good looks at goal? The general rule of thumb is that if a defense is taking away one thing, it's opening up an opportunity somewhere else to do so. Columbus never found that opening.
What was that I said about efficiency?
In my breakdown going into the game, I preached the need for efficiency. Lack of it sank the Black & Gold in the first meeting between the two teams, and the Impact have proven that they can win games without tons of opportunities.
The folks over at Mount Royal Soccer warned us that Montreal would come out hard at home and try to put away the game in the first 15 or 20 minutes. They knew what to expect, but it looked like Crew SC had no idea. It didn't matter that Columbus again won the possession battle and again out-shot the Impact. The hosts dominated the ball in the first 15 minutes and was firmly in control within a quarter of an hour.
Columbus did almost nothing with 56 percent of possession, and needed 15 shots to put five on target. Montreal, meanwhile, got off just eight shots, but five were on goal.
More defensive issues and turnovers
What was wrong with Columbus was more of the same thing we've seen all season when things didn't go right. Having to defend while running at its own goal. Guys not seeming to work together as a complete unit. And the occasional Steve Clark howler when he struggles to handle and control the ball in a moment when it seems like he should.
Players play the game. Players make mistakes. But when the same issues crop up over and over again, the coaching staff has to take some responsibility. They have to either correct it or find better ways to put guys in a position to succeed. It is their job to recognize issues and correct them.
Dog days for Mad Dog
Crew SC fans have embraced Emanuel Pogatetz wholeheartedly, and with good reason. He's been a strong presence at center back. I can't pinpoint the exact timeframe, but it feels like for just a little while now he's seemed a hair off; not in lock step with his fellow defenders.
He was a little harried against the Impact. I get that Dominic Oduro is fast and that his first goal should have been stopped before the ball ever touched his foot, but Pogatetz has played on too big a stage in his career to get wrong-sided by Oduro.
I wonder if Pogatetz is falling victim to the curse of the States — many European players have talked about struggling to adapt to the summer heat in which some MLS games are played or the crazy travel schedule. This is Pogatetz's first foray through a season of those issues. Could the dog days be getting to him a little?
The only positive
Will Trapp is back. Well, at least enough to play an entire 45 minutes. Whether he'll be ready to make that 90 minutes next week will be seen, but either way he is in a position to make an impact again. And not a moment too soon.
The tenor of the game had shifted by the time Trapp entered at halftime, but Columbus' entire presence seemed to shift once he was on the field. His movement — both with his feet and his passes — is so smooth. He is constantly receiving the ball and moving it on with one touch
It's fitting that he was subbed on after his long-time fill-in — Mohamed Saeid — was torn to shreds on the Impact's opening goal. You almost felt bad for the guy, watching Ignacio Piatti filet him for half the length of the field, shrugging off challenges and leaving him in the dust before Oduro finished off the play.
Piatti is a very good playmaker and Oduro is fast, but it's easy to believe that if Trapp was in the game, that goal would have never happened. It didn't seem necessary for Saeid to challenge Piatti so aggressively that high up the field, and it seemed a bit reckless against a player that could easily make you look foolish. It left Saeid chasing the entire way and losing the physical battle. Now, Trapp is not a big guy, but you get the sense that his positioning would have been better, and he would have never let Piatti blow by him like that (although we shouldn't pretend that Trapp is flawless...absence makes us forget the potential for youthful mistakes and the like).
Saeid has been an admirable fill-in and the club is better for having him on the roster, but he's not a true defensive midfielder in the sense that Trapp is. He is a great option as a spot starter or sub off the bench, but being asked to play that role game in and game out for three months straight has allowed the cracks to show. Hopefully, Trapp is bringing the caulk.
Sometimes you just tip your cap
For all the frustration, sometimes you just have to acknowledge your opponent did something well. In fact, Montreal played a solid 90 minutes and obviously had the right game plan.
Then there was Marco Donadel's strike. Wow. There are many moments we can break down where Crew SC went wrong throughout the game, but in that moment you just shake your head and give dap where dap is deserved. Yes, Donadel had all the time in the world, making his shot look like something out of a shooting drill in practice, but the Impact utilized the short corner perfectly. And when Donadel let one rip...