What did you think of the performance? What stood out to you? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
Good teams take advantage of good luck
Let's not kid ourselves. The opening penalty kick was generous. The second yellow card to Jason Johnson was debatable for some. That said, Columbus took advantage of getting some bounces (and flops) and turned it into three points. There are games that go your way and those that don't; across the season they generally balance out. So you have to jump on the positive bounces.
Chicago got its own bounce when an otherwise unimpressive David Accam free kick deflected in for a goal. But the Fire didn't take advantage. Only a handful of minutes later Crew SC took a lead it never let go of.
Another early goal conceded
I just talked about Chicago getting a nice bounce for its free kick goal early on, but conceding at all during that stage of the game is still worrisome. It may be a bit disingenuous to lump that goal into a trend, but I'm going to do that anyway, because the Black & Gold have allowed more goals in the first 15 minutes of the game than any other team in MLS. Major League Soccer is wild enough as it is, and anyone can beat you on any given day. You can't dig your own hole.
Pogatetz sits... again
A week ago I wrote that the trend with Emanuel Pogatetz was a bit troubling. He seemed to have lost steam and too often was a part of the mistakes on the back line. This week he stayed rooted on the bench. Whether that was purely for performance reasons or also because, as I suggested, he might be hitting a wall dealing with the unique challenges of a new league, obviously Gregg Berhalter was seeing the same thing we were.
Pogatetz was a positive addition to this club, liked by the fans and doing well on the field during the early portions of the season. He was considered one of the shining examples of Crew SC's ability to find players that fit a system and can perform well without breaking the bank. Here's to hoping that a brief midseason break freshens up his legs and his mind and serves as a wakeup call. If Mad Dog is on the same page as the rest of the defense, the Columbus back line is much better for it.
Speaking of the back line...
Conceding just one goal across 180 minutes this past week against one of the league's best teams when it comes to chance creation has been a big deal for this defense. Of course, it speaks to how bad things have been that it's considered a huge step forward. There were still moments on Sunday that were worrisome. There was a goal called back because of an offsides. There was a great Steve Clark save in the 23rd minute on Patrick Nyarko, with Waylon Francis completely losing positional advantage and Tyson Wahl lunging and missing a tackle. There was Chris Klute occasionally being careless with the ball (I counted two midfield turnovers and one bad clearance in the first half alone). I think Wahl is a serviceable spot starter, like he was this week, or sub off the bench, but there were times he could/should have been burned and wasn't. The Black & Gold are not out of the woods yet.
I wanted to come up with an appropriate pun for this sub-header, but his name will just have to do. As the minutes start to pile up and the number of opponents grows, Trapp will have to adjust and maintain consistency, but for this week against one opponent he really made his team better. Noticeably and immediately. Trapp is not the cure-all for Columbus' problems, but he goes a long way in starting to solve some of them with his shielding of the back line, comfort in the defensive midfield and ability to spot things to transition the team into attack. I also think he immediately gives Crew SC more freedom to use Mo Saeid in a more comfortable position, which I think we saw when he made his presence felt pretty swiftly after subbing on for Tony Tchani on Sunday.
Concussions are scary and tricky. I really hope he is in the clear and never deals with a head injury — or further ramifications from this one — again. But it could be a major coup if the Black & Gold have a fresher-legged Trapp toward the end of the season.
A true All-Star
Everyone can agree it is a travesty that Ethan Finlay was not selected as an All-Star. The league's leading assist-giver and one of its rising stars has followed up a breakout year by proving it was not just a mirage. His consistency of play over the last season and a half has been astounding for a guy that rose very quickly. He showed it again on Sunday, creating the early PK and then scoring the game's final goal. His speed stretches the game, but his work ethic is what makes him so effective, and that's not always the case with guys with speed. And his goal, while a great opportunity, is still one that many MLS strikers would have knocked right into the keeper.
I don't know how much pros lose sleep over these kinds of things, but Anthony Precourt should do the right thing and pay Finlay his All-Star bonus. Missing out on these types of opportunities are the types of little things that add up to young players leaving to go overseas to questionable situations just because the money is a little better. There's no telling how long Finlay is for MLS at this point, but do the guy a solid and give him the money he earned. Not to mention it can only engender good will amongst all players to see an owner respect the guys actually doing the work on the field, and will make players want to come play in Columbus. In a small market without the big lights of the major cities and without the money to throw around, every leg up is one that is worth getting.