Following the Crew’s 2-1 loss in Montreal on Sunday night, more questions regarding Robert Warzycha’s starting XI and the subs used were left unanswered. When you start the game with a 4-5-1 formation built to counter attack against the league’s worst defensive team, you are just asking to have your methods and motives evaluated by fans and media alike.
Montreal had given up 35 goals in only 20 games before playing the Crew. They had been outscored 9-1 in their previous three games, including a 3-0 loss at home to league-worst Toronto FC.
The Crew only managed a single shot on goal. If you skipped the first two paragraphs, I’ll state this little factoid again: Montreal has the worst defense in MLS. Granted, that sole shot did result in Columbus’ only goal, but it was completely against the run of play. The Crew earned a corner, earned another corner, and Milovan Mirosevic headed Nemanja Vukovic’s cross past the near post and into the net.
Mirosevic started the game lined up as a withdrawn forward, a position I don’t ever recall seeing him in this season. He really didn’t play as a withdrawn forward, however, as he likes to track back on defense too much and had trouble connecting passes in the attacking third. I would rather see him playing as a deep lying box-to-box midfielder, such as where Kevan George started. This would have allowed a more attacking-minded player to pair with Emilio Renteria, such as Eddie Gaven or Justin Meram.
George, a rookie, has been giving the ball away too much and is late on way too many tackles. Of course, if Danny O’Rourke is healthy, George wouldn’t have gotten a minute on Sunday. At this point in time, I wonder if Cole Grossman would be a more suitable fit, or, like mentioned above, Mirosevic. Although, I’m honestly still not sure where Mirosevic’s best position on the field is, and I question if anyone else knows either.
Chris Birchall, positioned on the right, didn’t add much to the attack all game. He has proven to be productive in that spot before, but Sunday just wasn’t his day. Plus, I would prefer to have Meram in the starting lineup anyway. Meram recently scored three times in three games, only to now be unfairly stuck on the bench.
I’m usually against athletes tweeting about their misfortunes, but, in Justin Meram’s case, I completely agree.
Justin Meram (@JustinMeram) July 09, 2012
Another thing that bothers me is that the Crew were not able to get the permissions needed for Jairo Arrieta to travel to Canada. When he was signed over two months ago, they knew exactly when he would be joining the team and what games were directly following that. International issues like this can take awhile to get sorted out, but you think it surely could have been taken care of in time.
Now, onto the subs. The first sub came in the 70th minute while Columbus was still up 1-0. Mirosevic came off, and Aaron Schoenfeld came on. How Schoenfeld, a tall and lanky rookie forward, is ahead of Meram (and fellow forward Olman Vargas!) on the depth chart is beyond me.
I do understand what Warzycha was thinking here. Schoenfeld is touted as a hold-up type of forward, one that helps in keeping possession. However, he is not yet very good at that. Meram, on the other hand, has good enough ball skills to be able to dribble and pass and keep the ball moving, therefore keeping possession in a different way. A way I’m not sure that Warzycha understands.
After the Impact leveled the game, Warzycha made two quick subs. First, Bernardo Anor came in for Nemanja Vukovic in a straight switch at left-back. Vukovic wasn’t having his best game in a Crew uniform and was partly to blame for Montreal’s goal, but I’m not sure what a straight defensive switch with less than ten minutes left accomplishes.
A minute later, Warzycha took off Renteria and inserted Dilly Duka. Duka, coming off reoccurring hamstring injuries, played 30 minutes in a reserve match earlier in the week. Inserting Duka and leaving Schoenfeld as the only true forward doesn’t leave a very threatening attack. Taking off a forward for an attacking midfielder while leaving your two central midfielders in doesn’t really change the game at all. I would have preferred Duka to come in for George instead at this point.
The Crew failed to create any dangerous chances with the lineup on the field. The subs were ineffective and poorly executed. The result: one shot on goal against the league’s worst defense and a 2-1 loss.
Now, I do understand that hindsight is 20/20, but is this lineup so hard to expect? It is twice as attacking, while also keeping a solid defensive base. This is how I would have gone into the game. Playing for a win instead of a tie.