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Tactical Preview: Columbus Crew SC at Minnesota

Weekly preview segment featuring match lineups and tactics

Crew SC lineup vs Minnesota
Nathaniel Marhefka

Today’s Independence Day match is going to look a lot different than the Columbus Crew SC loss to Atlanta over the weekend. Away from home, this Crew SC team has struggled to win games. Not a knock on the Black & Gold, but it is difficult in this league to do just that. So for this match, head coach Gregg Berhalter is trying something very different. Minnesota United is expected to retain their heavy counter-attacking play in the 4-2-3-1.

Several changes to the team sheet from Saturday:

  • Lalas Abubakar makes his debut for the club, and in a start. The Ghanaian rookie has featured on the team sheet earlier in the season but has yet to claim match time. Since his introduction to the team via the draft, he has played five matches with Crew SC’s USL partner, Pittsburgh Riverhounds.
  • Nicolai Naess returns to the starting XI for the first time in a month.
  • Kekuta Manneh makes his fourth start for the club. The new signing impressed two weekends ago with a goal and an assist off the bench against the Montreal Impact.
  • Alex Crognale is back in the starting XI. The young center back from Gahanna, Ohio was not featured in the Black & Gold’s previous three matches. But with a tactical change, he has been re-introduced into the starting lineup.

Big names left on the sideline for Crew SC

After a disappointing home loss to Atlanta United, the Crew SC coaching staff has decided to make several radical changes to the side that featured in that loss. Front man Ola Kamara retains his starting spot, but his two primary support players, Federico Higuain and Justin Meram, are relegated to the sidelines. This change comes as a surprise to me, and probably many others, but it is clear that this is viewed as a match to experiment a little before the Gold Cup break.

Also featuring last weekend but moved to the bench this week are Harrison Afful and Jonathan Mensah. Neither player performed well in the loss to Atlanta (nor did most of the team) and that could be a reason for the change but it should be noted that the Ghanaian duo also played midweek last week for Ghana against Mexico.

Starting XI: Columbus Crew SC in Minnesota
Nathaniel Marhefka

Big-time tactical tweaks

We’ve seen it a bit before this season, and today’s tactical setup may even be a slight variation of anything we have seen this season. The team sheet reads as a 5-4-1, and features both speedy Crew SC wingers in Manneh and Finlay. Previously this season, when we have seen this tactical formation, Higuain and Meram have been used to support Kamara up top.

With the personnel change, I would not be surprised if this plays more like a true 5-4-1 than the 3-4-2-1 which we have seen previously this year. Both wingers like to get wide and utilize their pace, so that will limit the wing backs freedom to move forward up the flanks.

While this could be used to create heavy overloads on the flanks, it is possible that the wing backs are utilized as inverted wing backs at times. This would be done by cutting into the center rather than staying wide.

By adding extra players in the center of the pitch, it could help retain possession and control the flow of the game against this heavy counter attacking side. Previously in the season, we have seen a slight utilization of inverted wing backs, but this match we could see the full effect.


How to watch and further scouting reports

Check out Ralph’s scouting report for some details on what Minnesota may bring to today’s match. He highlights their key players and talks about how Crew SC could exploit some of their weaknesses to pull of a away victory.

You can also visit Patrick Guldan’s How to Watch page to see your options for viewing today’s match


Let’s get a win! Stay massive, friends.