Winning on the road in MLS is tough. Columbus Crew SC rarely threatened to take all three in San Jose as they fell 2-0 on the road.
Off the Rails
The 3-4-2-1 that Gregg Berhalter turned to steady the defense has left the offense struggling for consistency. Columbus found the wrong kind of consistency last night as the offense disappeared nearly entirely. The Black & Gold was able to get off 10 shots, but there was very few of quality. Only Adam Jahn’s close range effort was an excellent chance. The rest highlighted Crew SC’s ablity to create real chances or lack there of.
This partly falls on the absence of Federico Higuain. The playmaker is key to much of the Crew SC offense. Justin Meram wasn’t able to compensate for the lack of the Argentine. San Jose focused on the only other chance creator and successfully neutralized him.
Crew SC attempted to play at speed, but rarely could get past the San Jose defense and into space. Initially, Columbus found some luck trying to play though using one touch passes, but soon the game bogged down in the midfield. Normally Crew SC could turn to playing direct through speedster Kekuta Manneh and the well timed runs of Ola Kamara, but the Quakes snuffed out every half chance. Without the ability to play directly, Columbus was left bogged down.
The three-man backline was supposed to shore up a leaky defense, but San Jose was able to still find plenty of chances. The issues leading to the first goal came further up field as Jonathan Mensah failed to control the ball and was dispossessed in midfield. He then slipped trying to recover. Alex Crognale overcommits and Marco Urena has a clear chance to poke the ball in from close range.
The second goal was another familiar sequence. The defense was slow to react, especially Wil Trapp to cover Tommy Thompson and Mensah was slow to rotate. Nico Naess lost Chris Wondolowski and it was 2-0.
The Crew SC defense undone by the same flaws, midfield giveaways and lack of concentration.
The Fall of Finlay
Down 1-0 and needing a goal, Gregg Berhalter turned to second year midfielder Cristian Martinez, leaving Ethan Finlay on the bench. Even after the team was down 2-0 and needing an impact on offense, BerhThe alter turned to Adam Jahn, a sub that would pay off.
Crew SC needed to grind out chances. Bringing on Martinez and Jahn makes sense. They are more suited to the game San Jose wanted to play. Jahn would score the team’s only goal and Martinez was able to give Columbus a bit of possession. There was a time recently where the type of game didn’t matter and Finlay was often able to make an impact. It appears that time has passed.
Crew SC fought back with a spirited road performance in Salt Lake City last week, coming back from a goal deficit to earn a point. That same fighting spirit just didn’t materialize in San Jose. The team never looked like they were going to overturn the goal that the Quakes scored late in the first half and the second goal was well earned. Jahn’s goal was more of a surprise than anything. It was like many other away nights where the Crew SC offense wasn’t able to get on track and there was too many minor defensive miscues that suggested that the Black & Gold wouldn’t be able to shut out the offense.
Missing Chances (off the field)
Crew SC had a golden chance to climb the standings. A win would have pushed the team into a tie for fifth place in the Eastern Conference. They would have been five points ahead of Orlando City. Now Crew SC are two points ahead of Orlando who have a game in hand. Atlanta has two games in hand, as does New York Red Bulls. The playoff race is tightening up and Columbus will rue missed chances like that.