For the second week in a row, Columbus Crew SC pulled a little something magic out of its hat and conjured up another win in a desperate situation.
A 2-0 victory over the New England Revolution certainly produced some talking points, so we’re going to talk about some of them.
(Apologies for no video clips of a couple of things I would have liked to include...if you want to reference anything, you can see game highlights here.)
How did Columbus rip 21 shots and create a bevy of opportunities? It was all about tempo. Part of this comes from continuing to embrace the counter (see below) and not getting sucked into meaningless possession; when the Black & Gold had the ball, they typically worked it well, keeping it — and the defense — moving.
If you watch Ola Kamara’s first goal, the ball starts on one side of the field, swings to the other and then comes back. Although Ola tries to create some space on his own before taking the shot, prior to that it was all one- or two-touch passing. And by stretching things side to side quickly, the chance was created.
There were a number of opportunities that were built in similar fashion. In fact, even if the penalty kick was a soft one, the score still could have been even more decisive if it wasn’t for two posts, a ball cleared off the line and at least a pair of outstanding saves from Brad Knighton.
I won’t stop talking about this. Not yet.
Again, the counter worked for Crew SC. Why it took this long for the club to embrace it, I don’t know.
Kamara’s first goal began on the counter, even if it wasn’t a traditional counter-attack goal. A number of opportunities came the same way. And Columbus still possessed the ball 54 percent of the time — more proof that possession and the counter can coexist.
For one more night the Kamara storyline reared its head again. Yes, Crew SC had already faced former striker Kei Kamara since his departure, but this was the first time it happened in front of Black & Gold fans in Columbus.
It’s not really a final verdict until there are some years to watch the big picture play out, but short-term it appears Crew SC has won this trade. Ola has far out-played Kei, and Sunday night was no different. The soccer gods were having fun with that one as the nail in the coffin came via an argument-free Ola penalty kick.
And as if to put an exclamation point on how the decision worked out, it was Kei (and family) stirring the pot after the game and coming out with egg on his face and a mouth full of sour grapes.
Was it right that fans booed Kei Kamara? No. Until the bottom dropped out at the end, he was a huge part of a very successful team and a friendly face in the community. Booing was undeserved. But it’s also their prerogative — the fans pay for that right (and at least partially pay for Kei’s DP salary).
That said, these guys get paid to play a game. That makes them professional. And there are times to act like a professional. Again Kei seemed like he failed to understand that. Yes, I’m sure it hurt a little to here fans you gave so much to turn their backs, but it was also something that should have been expected. And had New England won the game, I get the sense that Kei’s response may have been different.
Yet here we are again, with Kei letting what happened on the field affect his behavior off of it.
Speaking of Kamara drama, heavy contact from Scott Caldwell on Ola sparked a late-game scuffle and leaves us wondering whether there will be any disciplinary fallout.
After some review, it’s unclear if any Crew SC players did anything to warrant a suspension. There’s some question about whether Ethan Finlay got hands to face or to chest (my opinion: it was chest), the first of which is an automatic suspension.
My guess is it amounts to nothing going forward, but in must-win situations week after week, Columbus can ill afford to miss Finlay — or any starters, for that matter.
Two weeks ago, amidst a plethora of personnel absences, Tony Tchani got run out in the central attacking midfield role of the 4-2-3-1. It was an experiment I was intrigued by, but one we never got to really see play out — an early red card sent Tchani packing.
On Sunday he was back in that spot.
He’s obviously not a typical playmaker — he’s not creative, good with the ball at his feet in tight spaces or a great link-up guy. But in an atypical setup he does off the ability to cover tons of ground, some physicality and a height advantage in the box.
So what did we learn in an extended run out in the role? Here’s his day, visually:
At first glance, that’s not impressive. The incisive, threatening passes are nowhere to be seen, and quite frankly his overall influence on the game is not what you want from a No. 10. Then again, he’s not really a No. 10.
Criticism was strong in the Massive Report Slack room after the game, so I went back and re-watched the condensed version of the game to try to get some perspective. I walked away not totally convinced by the negativity.
Was this impressive? No. Was it bad? For much of the night I thought it was OK. He offers some hold up ability and can cover ground, which is useful in getting him involved in some high press. I like that idea. There’s not a ton else on offer, but in re-watching I noticed little moments where Tchani’s physicality help Crew SC keep possession. I noticed a couple of balls that allowed the attack to continue to flow forward, if not directly led to a chance. Then again, there were also times I thought he made the wrong decision.
For me, the jury is still out.
Hope is alive
That’s the long and short of it.
So, those odds aren’t great, but considering how the season has gone...
The Black & Gold control their future, with a game in hand on some other clubs, a huge matchup with D.C. United on Wednesday and a pair of contests against the struggling (though slightly improved) Chicago Fire.
They may only have 7 wins on the year, but 4 of them have come in the last 7 games. Strange season.— Patrick Guldan (@GuldanMR) September 26, 2016
It’s strange all right, but with another game in the books, there’s still a reason to watch.