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Tactical Preview: LA Galaxy faces Crew SC

A pre-match analysis of what to expect from the tactics board.

Nathaniel Marhefka

Welcome back to another iteration of the Tactical Preview series on Massive Report. After being sidelined last week, I am here to provide you with a guide for this evenings match as Columbus Crew SC takes on LA Galaxy in Mapfre Stadium.

Speaking of being sidelined — LA Galaxy will be without Jermaine Jones and Gio dos Santos (his brother will play). This will play in the favor to Crew SC as both are crucial to the team’s attacking effectiveness.

Crew SC has had the opposite come true in terms of player availability. While Artur is out for the match, having Federico Higuain thrust back into the starting XI is huge. Add to that the addition of Pedro Santos and the Columbus attack is looking to be the strongest that we have seen in weeks.

Columbus Crew SC Tactical Forecast

With the addition of Higuain and Santos to the squad, the 3-4-2-1 that we have seen in recent weeks has been rendered a secondary option. Of course, it depends how this match as well as subsequent matches uphold, but you want to fit your best players on the pitch each week — the 4-2-3-1 gives opportunity to do just that. So let’s take a look.

Columbus Crew SC 4-2-3-1 vs. LA Galaxy 4-2-3-1
Nathaniel Marhefka

By playing Ola Kamara as the primary scoring outlet, you need creative players behind to orchestrate attacks in order to feed the league’s seventh highest-scorer. Berhalter has certainly added to the creative talent pool with the new Designated Player (DP) signing, Pedro Santos, so expect more creative play from the Black & Gold.

Ethan Finlay has left, for more playing time in Minnesota, but I see it as more than just that. I believe that the coaching staff wants to metamorphosize the right midfielder position in this setup. Previously, with Finlay (and others), the right flank was a true winger position with transitional defensive duties. While defensively I expect the directives to be the same, it is on the offense that I expect to see some heavy stylistic changes.

With Santos (a natural left-footed player) slotting into the role, I have a sense that it will be more similar Meram’s role on the opposite flank. With Santos able to cut inside and create from the center of the field, it opens up the right flank for a wider range of attacking options.

With Finlay and Afful playing on the same side, we had a situation where they both excelled in the same offensive areas and were ineffective when the other is in the preferred spot. This change gives Afful more freedom to utilize his pace and crosses on the wing and allows Santos to play as either an inside forward or a wide creative midfielder, operating in a freer role.

Example: Santos drives inside to create positional miss-matches
Nathaniel Marhefka

This will especially help against teams such as the Galaxy, where they can be difficult to break down along the flanks.

Unfortunately the team is without Artur, who has established himself as a staple in the center of the midfield for Crew SC. Abu, his replacement will have more defensive duties than the Brazilian would and, in this setup, I’m okay with that.

Defensively, we can expect a revert back to the 4-4-2 medium block that we saw for the majority of the first half of the season. Higuain will join Kamara up top in limited light pressing of the opposition’s center backs.

LA Galaxy - What to watch out for

The Western Conference giants have had a horrendous season thus far. Plagued with injuries to their stars, players out of form, and a manager change halfway through the season. For the golden boys of MLS, have been less like Garber gold and more like Garber garbage. You’d expect more from the side that has dos dos Santos’, Romain Alessandrini, Gyasi Zardes, Jermaine Jones, and Ashley Cole. But Sigi Schmid’s soldiers have not won a battle since the middle of January.

Sure, they have been reinforced over that stretch, but a team that is struggling so strongly and has two star players out — It’s hard to predict a win on the road, no?

The team has arguably looked better since the new manager took over, but he has (at least yet) made any major tactical changes. Instead, opting for the same static 4-2-3-1 that the evolving game seems to be turning away from.

In their last three matches they have only scored one goal. And Schmid has been rightfully furious. He has entrusted Gyasi Zardes with the starting role up top, with Nana Boateng, Romain Alessandrini, and Jonathan dos Santos supporting in the advanced midfield roles.

With Jones out, Rafael Garcia is stepping in next to Joao Pedro as the organizing midfielder. In the advanced midfield roles, Romain Alessandrini is recovering from a knock and is starting on the sideline. This opens a spot up top, so it is likely that we see Zardes move back out wide with Bradford Jamieson IV taking the number nine role.

Tactical Matchup

LA likes to take a lot of shots, and move the ball quickly in transition. They will take any half opportunity they can towards net. This could be a dangerous mixture for Columbus as the passive Crew defense has had issues in transition when playing in their adaptive 4-2-3-1 formation.

Columbus is very good at scoring from open play, whereas the Galaxy are actually second worst in the league. Where they make up for it however is on set-pieces which they hold the fourth highest league-wide mark, at nine. Thankfully for Columbus, they are relatively strong at defending set-pieces

Offensive transition they are very opposite teams in terms of style. LA tends to counter through direct long balls from the back and from the center of midfield. Crew SC prefers to slow the pace of play down, and use the full width of the playing surface. While being very high in possession marks Columbus has attempted the second least amount of long-passes this season, thus preferring shorter and safer passing routes.

Follow along with me on Twitter @Glorytocolumbus for updates as the game progresses. If you enjoyed this article and would like to see more of these, please give me a shout and don’t forget to share with those that may feel the same.

Stay Massive, friends.