Columbus Crew SC finished the preseason without a win as they lost to the New England Revolution 1–0 on a Teal Bunbury goal. Crew SC finished 0–1–3 over the four preseason games in Tucson.
Crew SC rolled out a strong lineup. Steve Clark was in goal with a first choice defense of Harrison Afful, Michael Parkhurst, Gaston Sauro, and Waylon Francis in front. Wil Trapp and Tony Tchani paired in midfield. Ethan Finlay, Federico Higuain, and Hector Jimenez formed the attacking midfield behind Kei Kamara.
Justin Meram came in for Afful in the 62nd minute. Ben Swanson replaced Higuain in the 73rd minute. Every other player went the full 90 minutes. Berhalter likely didn’t have many sub options as the team played a scrimmage earlier in the day and the second team had gone a full 90 minutes.
Columbus never looked to get out of third gear. They retained a large possession edge, but rarely did they put Revs keeper Bobby Shuttlesworth to the test. The team had several flowing attacking moves, but often failed in the final third. The buildups were often too slow. The addition of Meram and Swanson didn’t change this. Berhalter would have different weapons to deploy in a regular season game to provide a different look.
The game was similar to quite a few in 2015, including MLS Cup. Crew SC could push for a goal, but lacked incisiveness to break down determined opponents. It’s still hard to see Berhalter’s approach in these situations, though he does have players who can hurt teams in different ways. Ola Kamara can play direct. Emil Larsen is talented in close quarters. Crew SC will have different looks, but they weren’t on display in preseason.
Berhalter has kept the 2015 team together. Only the injured Meram didn’t start in preseason. But it’s also interesting that Larsen or Cedrick Mabwati was unable to get more playing time with Hector Jimenez grabbing the spot with the first team.
Berhalter is absolutely correct when he said that they don’t give out points in preseason, but the same issues on offense and defense did pop back up in Arizona. Those issues kept Crew SC from looking elite for stretches of 2015, the return of a stagnant offense and fragile defense in preseason is enough to dampen the thought that Crew SC will roll over competition and drive towards the top of the Eastern Conference, though it’s better to find out these problems when the games don’t count.