The end is nigh. For some, that’s followed with a “finally.”
On Wednesday night, Columbus Crew SC was officially eliminated from postseason contention thanks to a road draw with the Chicago Fire.
On Sunday, with nothing on the line, the Black & Gold lost 3-2 to New York Red Bulls in a game in which Columbus mostly played like there was nothing on the line.
There was no 6-Thought-Box for the midweek game, so here are some general thoughts following the New York loss and the week as a whole.
The Ola quesion
Ola Kamara did not play in the midweek game against Chicago. As usual, cagey Gregg Berhalter hid the reason for that until after the game, when he declared Kamara injured and said he was left on the bench as a decoy. I’m not sure exactly what that accomplished, and it says a lot about Columbus’ season that against the worst team in the league it felt it needed mind games to gain an edge, instead of just being better on the field.
In the end, it didn’t get Crew SC the result it needed to remain in the (distant) playoff hunt.
Some still question the truth behind the Ola story, but at this point it’s irrelevant. It’s also not surprising he didn’t play on Sunday, hurt or not, nor should he have. At this point the club knows what it has in Kamara.
Adam Jahn’s solid week
Without Ola, it was Jahn on the field this week. He’s gotten a decent amount of playing time since joining the club, and during a disappointing week he was one of the better players in Black & Gold.
I was underwhelmed by the Jahn acquisition when it happened. I think he fits a need, but wasn’t sure whether he would really impact the team. By this point, though, I’m sold that he was a solid pickup and I’d like to see him continue with the team next season. That’s not to say I want him playing all the time, but as a guy who can give you 1,000 minutes over the course of a campaign and provide a big target in a system that loves to cross the ball, he’s worked out well.
Here’s one of his pair from Sunday:
This was one of the bright moments from the game (and another counter attack). Great ball from Ethan Finlay and nice ball from Justin Meram.
Christian Martinez got the first start of his MLS career and played 82 minutes this week — more than he had the rest of the year combined. Obviously Gregg Berhalter is trying to get a better look at Martinez ahead of next season, as he should.
The young winger had some bright spots, but also was invisible at times. He played the same type of role Ethan Finlay does, and looks to have the skillset to do that. I don’t think Martinez hurt his stock, but I’m not sure he bettered it either. At the least, he didn’t look out of place. That’s not good enough to get Crew SC fans excited, but he’s a young player and there should be reason to believe he will get better. Now he just needs more meaningful minutes to do that — something he didn’t get this season. Here’s to hoping he gets another chance in the finale, and that he does so more next season if he’s still in the mix.
Change, or not
Personally, I didn’t think we saw enough change in New York. Coming off a midweek game and with absolutely nothing on the line, the lineup was mostly familiar, outside of Martinez and a not-surprising run out again for Jahn.
I would have liked to see more, but the question becomes: Who else is auditioning? For a team we thought had much better depth when the season started appears to have virtually none right now. The reality is there’s just not that many guys in the mix to give a shot. Right not, it’s all about the regulars proving they deserve to retain the title of “regular.”
With that in mind...
He also happens to be one of the guys who may be primed to move on, as the club HAS to make changes in the offseason and he’s already been linked with moves away in the past.
One change we did see was that Crew SC’s 4-2-3-1 played more like a 4-3-3 than it typically has. Although Tchani played in the “attacking” midfield role again and Mohammed Saeid in a deep-lying spot, they were often level, with Wil Trapp playing behind them.
Here’s a sense of the player’s positioning:
I don’t hate it with that lineup, but it’s lacking a central influencer. The only player on the field that’s going to come up with any ideas is Meram, and we’ve already seen that while he’s often been effective, he can also force things or get stale. This team needs a central playmaker to distribute the ball to the right places at the right time. The midfield we saw Sunday can cover a lot of ground and slow things for opponents centrally, but it’s not going to break things down in the attack.
As for the final game, I’d like to see more of Martinez and a start for Rodrigo Saravia, because why not? Why not give a young guy some real, professional minutes right now? And with questions about the defense and what center back will look like next year, why not sit Michael Parkhurts and send out Nicolai Naess and Gaston Sauro together? I don’t believe we’ve seen those two paired together yet, and while I am of the belief that consistency along the back line is hugely important, I’d like to see how they work together.
Sunday was much like every other game for the past two-plus seasons — Columbus often struggles against the high press. NYRB took advantage of that.
This was the first goal, which got New York rolling, and it came off the press, as Cory Ashe turned the ball over in CCSC’s third of the field, which forced the Black & Gold to lose their shape and allowed the hosts to slide the ball into all sorts of space for Mike Grella.
Just not good enough
The whole week was a microcosm of the season, really. When it came down to it, Columbus just wasn’t good enough. This wasn’t a playoff caliber team, and with immense pressure on, Crew SC just didn’t have what it takes.
There was a draw to one of the few teams that struggled as much or worse than the Black & Gold (when Chicago had nothing to play for and Columbus had everything). There was a loss in which Crew SC was thoroughly outplayed for most of the game. There were giveaways and defensive breakdowns. There was possession without great results. There was one shot in the entire first half of Sunday’s game. One shot.
None of this is a surprise. The club has failed to be good enough all season.