The Columbus Crew has been beaten for the third match in a row, winless in 7 matches, and hasn’t scored a goal in the last 321 minutes of MLS play. Vancouver continued a decent run with their second consecutive win.
The Whitecaps came into the match riding high after a win at home against San Jose in their previous match, while the Crew have come crashing to Earth after starting the season off so well. Gregg Berhalter continued with the same lineup that has played the majority of Crew games this season, with Oduro on the bench and Jairo Arrieta up top. Vancouver started Kekuta Manneh and Erik Hurtado for the very first time, with Darren Mattocks out with injury.
The game started with the usual Crew possession, but it was hard for the Crew to break past the solid Vancouver defense. The Columbus transition from midfield to attack was lame, and Vancouver was able to easily retrieve the ball and break on the counter. The sole goal of the game came from a punt downfield and a wonder strike from Erik Hurtado. He took the ball well off his chest and put it past Steve Clark in goal. The Crew keeper had no chance, and the Crew wasn’t able to respond despite some late pressure as the game wound down. The Crew slumped to defeat, and the players looked visibly demoralized.
The feel good factor that came with the hiring of Gregg Berhalter in the offseason has quickly worn off. Not scoring any goals in over 300 minutes of play is pretty inexcusable, and there is clearly something that needs to change. Berhalter was quick to blame fatigue on the recent malaise, but it seems to be more than that. Only 2 shots on goal in a game at home where the Crew desperately needed some points is a giant cause for concern. It’s alright hoarding possession as the Crew has been doing this season, but if it isn’t translating into shots than it’s wasted.
Federico Higuain is taking on the vast majority of playmaking responsibilities and when he doesn’t perform up to his high standard, the entire team looks like it’s running through sludge. It’s so slow and tedious in the midfield that any team that sits a little deeper can easily disrupt the flow and counter with seeming ease. Vancouver had 4 or 5 great counter attacking opportunities throughout the match, and probably should have scored more than 1 goal.
In other news, it looks like Giancarlo Gonzalez and Waylon Francis are called up to the Costa Rica national team, with Jairo Arrieta on a waiting list. Likewise, Michael Parkhurst is in the 30 –man squad for the USA national team. I’m really happy for those guys, as playing in the World Cup is most likely a dream come true for all 4. In terms of the Crew, that’s 4 (if all indeed do go to Brazil) key players that will be missing for some important periods in MLS play. 3 players out of a starting back 4 is a bad situation, so it’s up to guys like Agustin Viana/Tyson Wahl to step in and produce while they are gone. The month of May and June is a very crucial period for the Crew, and it’s time to start getting some wins.
(image courtesy of Greg Bartram/USA Today Sports)