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Six Thought Box: Beat them when they’re down

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FC Dallas was supposed to be a powerhouse, but Crew SC didn’t care.

MLS: FC Dallas at Columbus Crew SC Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

The last time Columbus Crew SC faced FC Dallas at MAPFRE, it was a blowout for the visitors. With Dallas struggling mightily, Columbus took advantage with a solid 2-1 win, sent Dallas packing with their sixth winless game in a row, and climbed to third in the Eastern Conference standings for the time being.

On the back of Jonathan: Gregg Berhalter turned to the back three because it provided more defensive stability and covered for the absence of Federico Higuain. Well Pipa’s back, would the back line hold? The much maligned Jonathan Mensah answered that question. He rarely put a foot wrong on the evening. He was sharp with his passes (92%) and scored an excellent goal, but his impact on defense was most impressive. He made 9 clearances, 8 in the box. He had two tackles and four recoveries. The Ghanian has struggled with MLS this season, but he shows some very good signs he’s adapting and becoming the player Berhalter and Crew SC hoped he could be.

Another good turn: Mohammed Abu was another notable offseason signing that has appeared to crack the MLS code. His passing was exemplary again, but he showed off some defensive chops as well against a midfield that boasts some impressive talent. A tackle, four interceptions, two clearances, both in the box, and seven recoveries attest to the amount of ground he was able to cover. With the team back in the 4-3-2-1, Wil Trapp and his partner have a lot of ground to cover. Artur has show that he’s capable, but Abu finally showed he can boss the midfield as Crew SC’s style demands.

And many more: Ola Kamara opened the scoring as he normally does, with a shot around the box as he finished off a well timed run. It was his 30th goal in league play and he tallied it in a mere 53 games. The savvy Norwegian can certainly miss some chances that appear clear cut, but no player for Crew SC is as good at finding the little bits of space that he does. His 72 shots leads the team with Justin Meram in a distance second place, 18 behind. On the night, he added three of the five Crew SC shots. His intelligence certainly suggests there will be plenty more shots and goals in Black & Gold.

The rise on Martinez: Last season, I stumped for Cristian Martinez to get more playing time. That team wasn’t close to a playoff team and the then Panamanian loanee could use some game action, he ultimately played in five games and showed a few flashes of talent. This season, with playoff position to play for and plenty of talent on the roster, Martinez was buried down the depth chart, not even making the 18. He made his first appearance on July 22nd for an injury depleted Crew SC. Now with the team getting healthy, he’s still making the 18. Berhalter also trusted him to jump in as the first sub of the evening over a recovering Kekuta Manneh. He’s still raw, but he’s showing that he understands what is asked of him and he’s filling that role. He’s solid in possession, he harries defenders, and he’ll make the right pass. This season it looks like he has a role on a playoff contending team.

What goes up: Pedro Santos was excellent on Wednesday. His Saturday performance, however, was the opposite. He was an exceptionally poor with his passing, connections on a mere 52% (15/29). He had two unsuccessful dribbles, He didn’t record a shot on the evening. It’s well too early to start worrying about the Santos pickup, but it does prompt some caution about the upward and onward trajectory after the Galaxy game. Perhaps he’s not quite fit yet or he needs to work out how to work with Crew SC’s attacking wingers against 11 men, but now Santos has a couple weeks to continue adapting to his new surroundings and getting fully fit.

On guts alone: Meram played 269 minutes over the past week. He was visibly gassed on Wednesday. I was puzzled that Berhalter chose to play the Lion of Mesopotamia, but perhaps Manneh wasn’t quite that fit. Meram ultimately struggled throughout the game. His movement wasn’t as sharp, his touch failed him far more than usual, and he was caught upfield quite often. Yes, Federico Higuain is back and Pedro Santos appears to be an promising pickup, but Columbus desperately can use a rested Meram for the stretch run as no other player on the team is as constantly threatening attacking into the penalty area. Here’s hoping that he gets at least business class tickets on his trip to and from Iraq for international duty.

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