It seems like we just talked to our friends over at Massive Report not too long ago, but we’re not going to bring up that previous 0-2 loss at home back in March.
Pat Murphy however did bring up that game, so you can head over to their site to check out my answers to his questions regarding today’s game as the New England Revolution try to make it two wins in a row and claim their first road points of 2019 as they face the Columbus Crew today at 730pm at MAPFRE Stadium.
TBM: Columbus sits second in the East, their only blemish a 0-3 loss in Philadelphia. What went wrong that game and how did the Crew fix things by beating Atlanta last week?
PM: The biggest thing is the Crew were without five key players. While the team didn’t want to make that into an excuse (and talked all week prior to the game about the depth being good enough to handle a contest without them), the Black & Gold severely missed Wil Trapp and Gyasi Zardes who were with the U.S. Men’s National Team, certainly could have used Justin Meram and Waylon Francis (Iraq and Costa Rica call-ups respectively) and Zack Steffen who was out injured for that game.
I think the biggest thing that was noticed in that game was Trapp’s passing and the way he dictates the game, especially under Caleb Porter, where he is higher up the field than he was under Gregg Berhalter. The speed at which he moves the ball, especially helping it go from one side of the field to the other, is something that others on the team don’t replicate.
With all of that said, the Crew just weren’t good enough. Philly came out in a 4-2-3-1 instead of the 4-4-2 diamond they had been playing and Columbus was not prepared to deal with the change. Even after making adjustments, it just wasn’t there for the visitors on that night. I talked to a few players from the game who just couldn’t explain what went so wrong in that one. Right now, it looks like an outlier.
TBM: I dislike Gyasi Zardes scoring on the Revs, seems to do it often, what’s the best way to prevent Zardes from scoring? Prevent balls into the box, track his runs...why is he so successful in Columbus?
PM: I think Zardes could have been this successful anywhere if he is playing as a true No. 9 and getting proper service. The one year that was the case in LA, 2014, he scored 16 goals. He was that much better last year in Columbus because he was the focal point of the offense, not sharing that with Robbie Keane.
As for stopping Zardes, that’s a good question. His runs have become so good (go back and watch his goal against Atlanta last week if you have time) that it’s hard for defenders to track him. I’d say the one way to slow Zardes down is to deny him service from the wings. As much as the Crew’s wingers struggled last year to score goals, they still found Zardes enough to get him his 20 total goals. Of course, then you have to deal with Federico Higuain finding him and good luck shutting him down when it comes to playing the Revs.
TBM: All three wins for Columbus this year have been shutouts, does this team look like they will stay at the top of the East for all of 2019?
PM: I don’t know about that. The Crew were the top team in the East last year with this team (or close to it) and eventually finished fifth in the conference. I think that is likely (maybe a little higher) where the team ends up again, just based on the talent level of some of the other teams eventually evening out. I can’t imagine Atlanta continues to struggle as they have throughout the whole season (although I said the same about Toronto FC last year), and the same with both New York teams.
By the season’s end, I certainly think the Black & Gold are a playoff team but I’m not sure this is a team contending for the Supporters’ Shield or a regular season Eastern Conference crown. I just think the overall talent gap is too deep. Now when you talk about a single elimination playoff format, that’s another story.