Know Your Enemy: Columbus Crew
OTF’s Stephen Mangat doesn’t like the smell…
Back in the days when men were men, this fine site had a phenomenal weekly feature in which the city of the Fire’s upcoming opponent was very fairly slandered. In the spirit of those “Trash Talk Fridays”, let’s kickoff this post with some choice thoughts about Columbus from a site about “the best places to live, work, or retire.”
Look, Columbus sucks. I absolutely hate this place and I wish I would have stayed here a few days before deciding to move here…To call Columbus a “real city” is a complete JOKE. This is a cowtown at best full of cliquey, standoffish, backstabbing, mean, ignorant and boring people…The city also has no culture whatsoever. There is nothing that defines the city or makes it stand out from the competition…How about land geography? Well, Columbus is a whole lot of nothingness…How is the weather? It is schizophrenic like most of the city’s residents…I failed to mention the wild, psychotic obsession over the OSU buckeyes but why even bother?…I know after reading all of this, you are wondering to yourself “Well, what is good about Columbus, Ohio?” To be honest, absolutely nothing and I truly mean that from the bottom of my heart. The place is abysmally lame and overrated.
Now that Columbus is covered, Fire fans, let’s take a look at their team and your upcoming opponent, the Columbus Crew…
PLAY OUR MUSIC!!!
Ex-USMNTer Gregg Berhalter now runs the show, and from a tactical standpoint, it doesn’t seem like he’s changed much since he was hired. It’s two banks of four and a lone striker, with Federico Higuain doing whatever he likes between the striker and midfielders. The midfielders are a bit more aggressive with their pressing, and keeping the ball seems to be their m.o., but after a hot start, this group isn’t really impressing.
Steve Clark is the numero uno for Columbus. There’s not much known about him other than he played in Norway the past few years and must have caught Berhalter’s eye there. It’s worth noting he’s “a fan of indie movies and documentaries” so when you see him, ask which he prefers: Memento, Reservoir Dogs, or Garden State. If he says Garden State, punch him in the throat.
Top defender Michael Parkhurst just got cut from the USMNT, so he could make the game. Nonetheless, left back Waylon Francis will be with Costa Rica, as will center back Giancarlo Gonzalez. Therefore, it’s not worth going into who will be starting in the back for Columbus — just know that it’ll be a group of second-stringers (and maybe Parkhurst) who haven’t really played together frequently.
The Crew central midfielders are tasked with winning the ball and getting it to Higuain. They’re a hard pressing group that does the short passing pretty well. 21-year-old Wil Trapp is impressing in his second season, though he hasn’t shown the ability to threaten the goal. He’s a good enough passer and is a good athlete, which can be said about all the Crew midfielders. That said, Trapp does have a bit more vision than his teammates (Tony Tchani, Justin Meram, etc.).
Federico Higuain and Jairo Arrieta can cause problems for any team in the league. Arrieta’s a good finisher and he makes smart runs. Higuain is one of the best three creative midfielders in the league (Zusi, Morales being the other two) and he’s the man that makes Columbus tick. And don’t forget about ex-Fire man and current Fire killer Dom Oduro, who is waiting to come off the bench to do damage.
How can Chicago win?
Pressure on the defenders
The Columbus defense will be missing starters, so putting them under pressure throughout the game is a must as they won’t be match fit and they’re not as good as the starters (natch). This sounds like a job for Quincy Amarikwa.
Force the midfielders to do something special
The Columbus midfielders are all very competent players, but none of them are going to slice open the Fire or smash in a shot from distance. In fact, they work best when forcing turnovers and moving the ball quickly, so the Fire would do well to not get caught with the ball in their own half (duh) and keep the Columbus midfielders in front of them when defending. It’s simple stuff, but if done well, Chicago will have plenty of chances to win this match.
In the Klopas days, a defensive midfielder who sat in front of the back four would be able to track Higuain and deny him the space he always seems to find between opponents’ defensive and midfield lines. Now, with Yallop’s 4-4-2, the Fire will be set up in a way that plays to Higuain’s strengths. Therefore, the Chicago back four needs to constantly track him without being pulled out of position. So Ianni, Hurtado and the fullbacks must effectively communicate among one another and with the midfielders. It won’t be easy, and it’ll provide a great test to this group.
Good luck, Fire fans. Yours truly is roaming Chi-City right now, so if you see me at the RIPH Watch Party, you better holla at me.
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OTF’s Stephen Mangat is a Philly Union season ticket holder and taught Baryshnikov everything he knows. Follow him @smangat12