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Six Thought Box: The season in one game

Crew SC against SKC highlights the good and bad of 2017

MLS: Sporting KC at Columbus Crew SC Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

It was the good and bad Columbus Crew SC against Sporting Kansas City, giving up a bad goal, but scratching out a result in the end.

Sandstone, not granite: Gregg Berhalter was hoping he’d be getting a defender as solid as a rock when he brought in Jonathan Mensah, but it hasn’t turned out as well as anyone hoped. The league’s highest paid defender solidified the backline through the month of August, prompting some hope he turned the corner after struggling most of the season. The problems returned and cost Crew SC a goal and perhaps all three points. He chose a dangerous and risky option with a hopeful long ball rather than holding off Cristian Lobato and allowing time for Zack Steffen to pick up the ball. Perhaps Steffen was slow to come into the space, but Jonathan had multiple other options than a dangerous overhead kick.

Granite, not sandstone: While Gregg Berhalter’s teams prioritize attacking prowess, Peter Vermes Sporting sides have always been solid at the back. The 2017 version may be an all time great defensive team. Tim Melia is an excellent keeper and the center back pairing of Ike Opara and Matt Besler are as good as it gets in MLS, it’s really a team effort to be as good as they are defensively. From the forward line to the midfield that closes down space, Kansas City is fun to watch if you are a connoisseur of protecting the goal. Columbus had precious few good opportunities, like many teams that face Vermes’ team of committed defenders.

Flagging to the finish: Crew SC had 15 days off between games. Sporting Kansas City had four. Still it was the home team that struggled as the game went on. In the second half, the Columbus offense all but disappeared. Four of the team’s 12 shots came after halftime as the team struggled to move the ball forward. Pedro Santos and Ola Kamara were substituted in the 65th minute, but that did little to change the momentum. Crew SC were second best on the 50/50 balls and the normally crisp passes went more and more awry. 11 of the 20 SKC shots happened in the 2nd half. SKC finished stronger even though they played in New York and then Columbus in the span of four days.

Vintage Pipa: Federico Higuain’s future in Columbus may be up in the air, but that hasn’t dulled his abilities on the field. The SKC defense limited his impact, as they did for the entire attacking line, but he still was able to create two shots, including a prime chance for Ola Kamara that he created out of a magic flick. Even when struggling against a top defense, he is still able to find just a little bit of space or find the right angle to create a chance or two even when things aren’t going Crew SC’s way.

Still adjusting: Santos shows tantalizing promise. He’s great in tight spaces and shows a knack for making the dangerous pass, but it’s clear that he still hasn’t fully fit into how Crew SC plays. With the offense flowing through Higuain, Santos is still figuring out how to connect with the Argentine playmaker. There are signs that he can, but most of the game is one that Santos will want to forget. The bright spot? Much like Pipa, he still made an impact despite being held in check most of the game. His set piece delivery for Ola Kamara was excellent. He earned a well deserved assist.

Cooling off period: Only one team is hotter in it’s last five games than Crew SC as they went 3-0-2, the supernova Toronto FC went 5-0-0. Four of those games were at MAPFRE Stadium and Columbus grabbed 10 of 12 points at home. That’s what playoff teams do. It’s also what they needed to do because Crew SC is an unplayoff like .79 points per game on the road. Columbus ended the home stand in fourth place as the chasing New York Red Bulls, Atlanta United, New England Revolution, and Montreal Impact start to make up their games in hand.

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