Disclaimer: This article is written out of frustration. I believe that it is what you, the fan, would say if you had a platform. I take a break from hard hitting tactical analysis and instead vent about the disarray I saw on the field last night. Do I think this performance means the Crew SC wont win the MLS Cup? No. Take the top four or five players away from any team and they will struggle. But I do think Kei Kamara and Waylon Francis cover apparent holes in Gregg Berhalter's system and without them, Columbus is exposed for the one dimensional — confused team they are.
Ohio is for lovers, and Kei Kamara
For 90 minutes last night Columbus Crew SC looked completely lost on the attack. There was a total lack of continuity whenever the team moved up field. They continued to play crosses and through-balls as if Kamara was on the field, but he was not. Jack McInerney's skill set is different from Kamara's, but the players and coaches kept with the same playbook.
JackMac had a few chances however, including a chance at a wide open net, and missed them. Kei Kamara is the league's MVP, and it's not close. The team looked lost, fought with each other and couldn't find the net without him. When he is in the squad they look completely different. The team on the field last night would have struggled to compete with a "best XI" picked from the fans in the stands last night. Kamara adds a confidence, spirit and purpose to the team that appears to be totally leaderless without him.
Oh captain, my captain
Speaking of a lack of leadership, Michael Parkhurst deserves his share of the blame. He was embarrassed on a counter attack from a team that appeared to have no interest in attacking. He defends and leads on the field without the conviction you expect from a player with a decade of pro experience under his belt. His defensive struggles are becoming hard to ignore. It happens to the best players, once they age and lose a step they seem to fall off a cliff. Parkhurst no longer has the speed to run or defend 1-1 the way Berhalter's system requires. I am not privy to the leadership behind the scenes, but on the field he seems not to do the things I would expect a captain to do. He doesn't rally his men, he doesn't lead by example and he doesn't seem to hold players accountable. When watching Parkhurst I am reminded of the old Office Space line "So...what would you say you...do here?"
Emmanuel Pogatetz is dead
...to Gregg Berhalter and Columbus Crew SC. This comes as sad news as he seemed to possess the give-a-damn and vocal presence of a defensive leader that the backline desperately need. After Sauro came out of the game in the third minute last night, Tyson Wahl came on to replace him. This signaled that Emmanuel Pogatetz was now fourth on the depth chart at center back. Since this is a position that is rarely substituted, and not typically rotated, it likely means Pogatetz is done in Columbus. It is a little shocking considering his hefty price tag and the small number of games he has gotten with the first team. It calls into question Gregg Berhalter's scouting, considering how quickly they are moving on from, by this club's standards, such a highly-paid player.
Steindorsson? More like Shown-the-door-son!
Speaking of players who have only briefly been with Crew SC, Kristinn Steindorsson is likely also out. He is now behind Justin Meram, Cedrick and Ben Speas at the left wing position. He likely wont get a run out on the right wing or centrally either. Steindorsson has done little to show he is worth keeping next year in limited action. Has Steindorsson gotten a fair shake with the club? I don't think so. For a young player moving leagues and continents it can take time for him to settle in. Berhalter may benefit from showing patience in evaluating him, but considering the club's options on the wings, that is unlikely to happen.
It's been a long time since Crew SC players bickered and pointed fingers as much as they did last night. Hector Jimenez routinely complained about the balls sent his way, Federico Higuain was angrily pointing at his teammates, and if looks could kill...Steve Clark would have been the only defensive player on the field last night. The players were right to be angry — they stunk. But this points to a lack of leadership on the field (as discussed earlier) and lack of a plan in practice. I like the passion showed by players and won't rip them for holding each other accountable. When there is a leadership void, however, the vocal minority takes the leadership position even if it is not warranted. For the sake of the team and fans, I hope a leader steps up and directs the passion productively.
Berhalter is roughly translated to "I am only playing one style, even if I don't have the players to run it"
I'll preface the following by saying that I believe Gregg Berhalter is the correct man for the job and any call from him to be fired is short-sighted and unreasonable. Any coach in MLS is going to have flaws, if he didn't, he would be coaching in a better league.
That being said, his system is extremely inflexible and does not seem to take individuals players talents into consideration. The center backs are too slow to cover the ground he asks them to. Slow center backs are not a problem, the solution is to play a deeper line, ask the fullbacks to stay back more, and the more compact, deeper line allows the slow players to cover less ground and do a good job with the ground they do cover, rather than be exposed in space. I don't have the space in this article to break down each position group and how their skills are not necessarily being utilized in the system. The problem becomes otherwise good players have their deficiencies exposed and the team suffers as a result. Berhalter has shown he is unwilling to adapt to his talent. In a salary capped league he won't be able to pick and chose the players that suit his system best. If he continues to be unwilling to adapt Columbus' ceiling will be lowered.