Thursday, July 15, 2010

Columbus Crew Tactics: It's Time for a Change


A quick glance at the Crew lineups for the current MLS campaign reveals that Warzycha is in a rut.  Let us tread carefully.  RW is a solid manager; more importantly, he's our manager.  And it's not that the Crew aren't doing well. It's just that they don't look like a championship club at this point.  And if the record at is to be believed, part of the problem, and certainly part of the blame for last night's loss to down-table Kansas City, must lie in the fact that the Crew have become woefully predictable.

The Crew have played a 4-4-1-1 each and every game this season, with relatively minor changes to the starters.  And the 4-4-1-1 has its merits, which we've outlined in an earlier post.  But we're starting to think that at this point in the season, fully half-way through the Crew's campaign, teams in the league have thoroughly scouted the Black and Gold and know too well how to defend against us.  And it's also clear that although the typical starting lineup gives us strength in the midfield and keeps teams at bay (before last night's match our GA/GM was at .86), it sacrifices attack for caution.  Fine. Warzycha is the coach and he gets paid to make the important decisions.  We sincerely respect that.

But we could not help but notice last night that once the attacking subs got in the game, the Crew's energy level went up (understandably), and all of sudden we were swarming all over the KC goal.  On some of the Crew discussion sites, notably Big Soccer, complaints about Schelotto's role in Warzycha's scheme have been around since the start of the season.  Our view is that he's much better used held back, more like a traditional #10.  And in Warzycha's 4-4-1-1, we think Schelotto is pushed up too far and is thus unable to function either as an effective forward/striker, OR as an effective attacking-mid ala World Champion Spain's Xavi.  Last night, late in the match, Ekpo and Renteria were able to create havoc on the Wizards' left, and both showed great flashes of skill both shooting and setting up others.  Plus, we love Renteria's size and his ability to serve as a target for the mids: a striker ala Drogba who can hold the ball, shoot, create. Forza Crew!

As such, here's our dream line-up, at least at home against inferior teams:

In our 4-2-3-1, Renteria moves up top and has license to roam laterally across the top of the Crew's shape.  Rogers starts on the left and is a traditional winger.  Ekpo starts on the right and can fly down the right side or move toward the center to create. Most importantly, Schelotto hangs back as a true center attacking-mid whose job is to create and destribute (ala Xavi), collecting and distributing the ball from his cruising ground in the middle of the field.  Hejduk and Padula will push up as usual depending upon which flank the Crew's attack is building.

This is not a complicated schema.  And it would do much to get the boys out of the rut they've fallen into, making them less predictable and more dangerous from the first minutes of the match rather than just the last 20 or so.  Hagalo C-Bus! 'till I die...

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