Let’s get this over with.
This was a bad loss. A very bad loss. A terrible, horrible, no-good, very-bad loss. Usually in these columns I try to provide some context, some analysis, and an even-keeled look back at the good and bad of the match. But this… this was something else. To be perfectly honest it’s kind of hard to write about a match this bad. I’m not the type to rage and vent spleen, I don’t usually partake in hot takes, so for those of you expecting a rip snortin’ ball busing of Berhalter and Co will have to look elsewhere, there’s plenty going around.
But make no mistake, there will be no turd-shining here. This was about as bad of a loss as you could have if you’re Crew SC. The team looked ineffective in attack and in tatters at the back. This has to be, HAS to be, the low point of the season. Because if it’s not… I don’t want to think about it.
Risk Doesn’t Pay Off
Gregg Berhalter put out a very different line-up than the one I, and likely most of the Crewniverse, was expecting. The team played in what was essentially a 4-1-4-1, with Trapp playing as a shield in front of the center backs and Meram and Higuain as central attacking midfielders. On paper it could actually have been effective against Toronto’s preferred back three. The speedy wide players could have pegged back the wing backs and the two creative players behind Kamara could have drawn the attention of the center backs, opening up room for the striker to work with. But in the end the opposite ended up being true. The formation exposed the weaknesses of Crew SC, the defensive frailty and toothless finishing that has come to be a recurring theme this season. The team didn’t look all that comfortable playing the formation, and it’s hard to see Berhalter’s first half sub of Meram for Artur as anything but an admission of getting it wrong. Risks can sometimes pay off big, but tonight it put the Black & Gold in a hole they couldn’t get out of.
Wil Trapp is Not the D-Mid We Need
Let’s get one thing straight: I don’t believe Wil Trapp is a bad player, that the team is better without him, or any of the other 11-billion hot takes going around right now. I do believe, however, that he is not the right guy to be playing center defensive midfield in Gregg Berhalter’s system. This isn’t new, in fact I’ve been saying it on our podcasts for over a year. Trapp is a capable passer of the ball and is better going forward than he is going back. He’s not a ball winner, not a stopper, which is what is required in this system. These facts were especially on display Friday night, as he was the only real center midfielder on the pitch to start the game. His propensity for turnovers bit the team again, playing a large part in the second goal.
Trapp has shown this season that he can be a real positive impact going forward. I believe he’s a good enough player to contribute to the team in a positive fashion, and to be honest I don’t really see a better option sitting on the bench for Crew SC right now. I believe the problem is in the role he’s being asked to perform. Until that is remedied he will continue to struggle, and the team will likely struggle along side him.
We Need to Talk About Jonathan
We’ve been hearing in recent weeks about how happy Berhalter and his staff are with the progression of Jonathan Mensah, but after tonight I think it begs the question: Seriously? The DP center-back looked, in a word terrible. This is not the first match where he has been behind the pace of the game. A few weeks ago in Montreal he was bodied off the ball after a poor turnover, and tonight he was burnt to a crisp leading to a penalty. With center-back being one of the position Crew SC seems to have a good deal of depth in, including a promising young homegrown in Alex Crognale, I don’t believe it’s unfair to pose the question: has Jonathan done enough? Just because you’re paying a guy big money shouldn’t mean he’s guaranteed a place on the pitch. As bad as he’s looked, he has to be droppable at this point.
Where is This Team At Mentally?
After a terrible loss it’s always interesting to see the response. Luckily (or unluckily) Crew SC have another match on Wednesday to look forward to. I think how they come out in that game will say everything we need to know about where these players are at, mentally. As Friday’s match went on shoulders began to slump and frustration set it, but I think that’s natural. I want to see what this Crew team does Wednesday. Will they be timid, lacking in confidence? Or will they come out angry, looking to prove a point It may be a sign of what direction the season is going to go.
The Natives are Getting Restless
Fans are finicky, sports fans especially. As the team struggled last year an undercurrent of discontent began to bubble up. With the recent poor results the cries for change have started to grow louder. Individual players, Berhalter, even the front office have all been singled out for various levels of discontent and abuse by fed up fans. I am interested to see what, if any, effect that restlessness has on the players and team as a whole. It’s fair to assume that the comments to the media, from Berhalter, the players, and even Anthony Precourt, will remain positive, or at least optimistic. It’s not in their nature to throw each other under the bus, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they aren’t feeling the pressure. It could show on the field. Only one thing is for sure, winning alleviates that pressure.