Call me a cynic, but all of a sudden two wins at home against subpar teams doesn't seem all that exciting.
Columbus Crew SC went on the road Saturday to take on a Seattle Sounders side that has had its own struggles. What ensued was as frustrating a game as Black & Gold fans have watched this season, at least in my mind.
Here are some observations from the 1-0 loss that, as you'll read, just wasn't good enough.
I'm not alone
I walked away from this game angry and frustrated, as a Crew SC fan. As much so as I can remember in some time. Through the first two months of the season I've felt comfortable with being patient. There were some good performances, if not results, and common sense and statistics indicated things would even out to some extent.
But after Saturday, patience seemed like indifference. I didn't know, though, if I was just having a bad day. Maybe I was alone in my frustration. Apparently not.
Nothing positive to take out of that game yesterday. Nothing!— KEI KAMARA (@keikamara) May 1, 2016
I'm right there with ya, Kei.
Lack of intensity
Possession for the sake of possession. At times on Saturday, that's what things felt like. There didn't seem to be a ton of urgency. The team can't be satisfied with just holding on to the ball. Sometimes the conservative decision is the right one, but on too many occasions I thought Crew SC simply settled, rather than trying to put the ball somewhere dangerous or make a dynamic move. There was a 17-minute stretch in the first half during which Columbus controlled 60 percent of possession and attempted just one shot. That's not good enough.
We're talking about finishing again
Sixteen shots. Four on target. Not good enough. (Notice a trend so far?)
Some of that stemmed from what seemed like indecisiveness, or maybe that slight wanting in intensity was the difference. In the 31st minute Federico Higuain got a gift when Stefan Frei lofted a kick right to him above the 18-yard box. Of all the players you'd expect to make a quick decision, that seemed like a gimme for Pipa. Nope. He took an extra touch, then had to try to round a defender, and by the time the shot was off, Frei was in position to make the save.
In the 40th minute Ethan Finlay got an opportunity and probably took one touch too many.
In the 61st minute Finlay had a 1-v-2 with Kei Kamara, didn't play the ball and ended up with nothing. A quicker decision to put Kamara into space could have changed the game.
Maybe some of the early goal-scoring troubles have got guys overthinking things. I'm not really sure. But on Saturday the attacking players definitely looked like they were fighting it.
And then there's this...
Columbus dominated first-half possession. Through about 15 minutes, it was somewhere around 65 percent. That number declined as the game pushed toward halftime, but it was still a contest the Black & Gold controlled (almost 57 percent). Which is why the final numbers — a split in possession — show just how much the script was flipped in the second half.
Sigi Schmid has been under a lot of fire recently, and there are certainly issues with the Sounders, but he made enough changes midway through to get a win. Even when that result was uncertain, he at least put his team in a position to threaten the entire second half. Columbus, meanwhile, went from doing nothing with a lot in the first half to being forced out of its game plan and eventually conceding.
This was a classic Steve Clark performance — the epitome of what he does. There was a moment or two in which he didn't command the box well. There was a moment or two with the ball at his feet when he rattled nerves. But there were also moments where he, at least momentarily, saved the game with his shot-stopping ability. It was good enough for his team to win on Saturday (he was probably the team's best player), and it's generally good enough to win a lot of games. It wasn't against the Sounders, and that's a problem.
An 87th-minute nap
The defensive shape on this is so all over the place. It comes off a free kick, with the defense seemingly set up to defend a ball into the box. Kind of. It looks to me like Seattle takes the free kick quickly (the TV broadcast wasn't even showing the field yet) and Crew SC is clearly not prepared.
Harrison Afful is located centrally, I presume to help with a ball into the box, but he's mostly floating high where he's of little use on the initial ball or to help defend once the ball ends up in the area. When Joevin Jones' first cross in is blocked, the defense is all out of sorts. Instead, Cedrick Mabwati is left "defending" Jones, and I use quotes because, well, watch the clip above. Mabwati is too busy with what looks like pleading for offside to actually bother defending, and Jones runs into the box unmarked, causing chaos.
Tyson Wahl is left in no-man's land, trying to hedge his bets between an attacking Jones and the run of Oalex Anderson (on the field for about 40 seconds), who he would have been marking had anyone else bothered to defend Jones. Meanwhile, Rodrigo Saravia looks like he has no idea what to do and so ends up doing nothing — he doesn't attack Jones and he doesn't get in to mark Anderson. He watches.
Michael Parkhurst is pulled back toward the goal line as Clark stops the initial shot, and Jordan Morris floats free while Waylon Francis' ball watches (though, to be fair, it was a quick, chaotic moment that never should have needed his help).
This all comes from not being prepared for a free kick because the game came to a momentary halt to allow subs on the field. Not good enough.