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What We Learned: Crew vs. Orlando City SC

Our biggest takeaways from the latest Black & Gold loss.

MLS: Columbus Crew SC at Orlando City SC Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

It was the story of 2019, Columbus Crew SC played well, held on to the ball, created a few chances, and then the defense was burned on its one major error. With such a similar pattern, these losses are starting to run together. There are still several new things that we learned as the Crew lost for the fifth straight game:

The offensive playmaking remains missing in action in the 4-3-3

The Crew switched to a 4-3-3 last night. This, in theory, pushes the wingers higher and creates a triangle in central midfield to build attacks from. It had the effect of pushing attacks wide and underlined that the team has no offensive playmaker.

Looking at Zone 14, the area just outside the penalty box, the Crew had very little attacking penetration out of those players, mostly Pedro Santos pinching in. Additionally, those passes are being sprayed wide rather into the penalty area to create dangerous chances. The midfield trio, Wil Trapp, David Guzman and Artur show up sporadically on the pass charts, if at all.

Passes in Zone 14

The 4-3-3 is supposed to sidestep the need for a playmaker, but the Crew still need to create some chances from their midfield. Columbus is relying on crosses to create offense and it’s easier for their opponents to defend.

Even if the Crew continue to play in a 4-3-3, they will need more attacking vision from the midfield. Playing Trapp, Guzman, and Artur together will hamper an already anemic offense.

The team put in a strong total defensive effort

Perhaps this is qualified since Orlando struggled through a quick turnaround from a midweek Open Cup game. However, the Crew allowed four shots on goal for the game. Two were off target and another was blocked. Orlando, of course, scored on the one shot they did put on net.

Beyond shots, Orlando was rarely allowed to get into dangerous areas and the Crew truly limited City’s chances. These are the types of efforts that give offensively challenged teams a chance at points. If the Crew is going to change the course on 2019, it will be on the backs of the defense.

Aboubacar Keita is the future (and present) of central defense

Gaston Sauro suffered a muscle injury in his leg in the first half of the game and was forced to come out in the 25th minute. Porter had one choice on the bench to replace him, rookie Homegrown defender in Kieta was the only center back among the seven substitutes.

Keita held his own in his 65 minutes appearance in relief. His passing was sharp, connecting on 26 of his 28 passes. Defensively he made a recovery, added an interception, and won two fouls. He handled getting thrown into the game with veteran savvy. He also showed he’s ready to play more minutes.

The Crew should handle Keita much like they handled Wil Trapp’s introduction to the team, play him as much as possible.

Keita and Trapp’s early careers are very similar. Both signed with the team as a homegrown in the preseason. Keita signing this January while Trapp signed in December of 2012. Both played major roles for the United States U-20 World Cup team during their rookie years. Both have now made their debut in midseason. Trapp debuting in a July 7th, 2013 start while Kieta made his Crew debut on July 3rd, starting in the loss to Real Salt Lake.

Trapp played the final 16 games of the 2013 season as a 20-year-old. The Crew should give the 19-year-old Kieta plenty of competitive game time to finish out what appears to be a lost 2019 season. Crew teams of the future will be better for it.