Hello and welcome to yet another installment of tactical preview. Today we stay at home as Columbus Crew SC takes on a struggling, yet hungry, FC Dallas side. Along with the struggles comes a bit of tactical uncertainty as head coach Oscar Pareja has been tinkering with lineups in hope of revitalizing the team’s season. Columbus, on the other hand, will have a happy Gregg Berhalter after the midweek victory over the LA Galaxy.
FC Dallas Tactical options
While tactics for the Texas team has often been dictated by personnel, we have seen Pareja move away from his standard 4-4-2 alignment in recent matches, toying with a 4-3-3 and a 4-2-3-1. While the 4-4-2 has been the staple in which his team has become known, the recent 4-3-3 has produced the best play this team has seen in weeks.
Crew SC: Back to it’s roots
The introduction of Pedro Santos to Columbus has begun with a roaring start. Often, in a Berhalter team, players take awhile to integrate into the system and can take some time to have a definitive effect on matches. Not in this case with the new Designated Player. An assist last match has garnished him another start and the focal point of the Crew offense is once again the Argentine Federico Higuain.
Justin Meram starts on the wing and Ola Kamara up top, leaving an unchanged attacking quartet from last match.
The center of defense remains Josh Williams and Jonathan Mensah as Nicolai Næss continues to find it difficult to break into the 11. While performance or training may be what is keeping him in the side, I think that it is clear to a certain extent, that Berhalter does not want to change something that is working. To add to its recent form, the team is undefeated in three matches for only the second time this season, all of which have featured Williams and Jonathan.
Due to the injuries of Waylon Francis and Harrison Afful, Jukka Raitala and Hector Jimenez start at the wingback positions today. In the center of midfield, Mohammed Abu retains his starting spot next to Wil Trapp, as Artur continues his recovery. Abu will be looking to continue to impress after what could be his best match against LA.
Tactics for Today
Back to the 4-2-3-1 for a second week in a row. It seems Berhalter’s preferred tactical setup when Higuain is available and today is no different. The alternative, the 3-4-2-1, had moments of success but the players seem more comfortable in the tactic that they have practiced more regularly and results seem to indicate the same. Befittingly, offensive production is greatly improved in the 4-2-3-1 as more players are able to engage in the offensive, having a secondary creator in Santos certainly helps this case. But having an extra attacking player for the sacrifice of a center back undoubtedly helps.
FC Dallas seems to struggle against clubs that can keep possession and circulate efficiently through midfield. This today will certainly play into the favor of Crew SC. Dallas has not had a victory in six matches. Controlling the match will be key for Crew SC and cycling possession through Trapp and Abu will be paramount to a victory.
Expect Meram and Santos to play as interior wingers, cutting into the half-space and allowing plenty of overlaps from the wingbacks. Keeping the Dallas wingers pinned deep will prove to hold positional superiority throughout the match and with that force an inability to counter (huge for a counter-prone Crew side).
If Crew SC can dominate the positional battle and make its chances count (an issue throughout the season), the side has a really great chance at extending its lossless streak to the longest of the season.