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How You Doin'? Columbus Crew – Take Two

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Patrick Murphy of Massive Report stops by for a chat prior to Saturday's match in Toronto against the Crew

Somebody stole his hard-hat - Gregg Berhalter, head coach and sporting director of the Columbus Crew
Somebody stole his hard-hat - Gregg Berhalter, head coach and sporting director of the Columbus Crew
Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Continuing Waking the Red's build in the nineteenth game of the 2015 season, WTR exchanged some questions with Patrick Murphy of SB Nation's Columbus Crew site, Massive Report, to shed some light on the opponent from their perspective.

Question the First
Columbus is sitting pretty in the standings up in second place in the East, though Toronto and New York (the Red Bulls one) are breathing down their necks and both have multiple games in hand. Is that a true position, where one would expect to find the Crew, or is it inflated by a somewhat weakened schedule of late (looking at those two Chicago games last week)? To that point, the Crew close the season with a difficult six weeks that sees matches home and away to DC, against Portland, in Toronto, and in New York. Is it expected that Columbus will stay that high in the Conference, or drop down into the mire?

I think there are two ways you can look at the standings as it is currently. One, the teams below United and Crew SC have a great opportunity to catch up with the games in hand. Or two, those teams have to play those games while D.C. and the Black & Gold already have those points in the bag.

Berhalter is looking at it in the second way. He pointed out that Crew SC has the opportunity to play each of the teams around them in the standings and these teams have to win the games in hand in order to catch or pass the Black & Gold.

With that said, the schedule gets more difficult, which makes a game like Saturday’s contest with Toronto that much more important.

The good news is Berhalter is finally getting to start his first-choice team. Wil Trapp recently returned to the starting lineup, which makes a world of difference. Mohammed Saeid did well in relief of him, but Trapp is a more natural fit in the defensive midfield role.


Question the Second
Even from that lofty perch, is it apparent that Columbus has relied almost exclusive on home form to collect the majority of their points, collecting their first road win of the season last week at the tenth time of asking. Is it dangerous to lean so heavily on home form when crunch time comes and the playoffs approach? Is there any particular reason why the team does better at the friendly confines of MAPFRE Stadium – some sort of sausage-based advantage perhaps?

It’s certainly not desirable to be getting nearly all your points at home, but this is MLS where a point on the road is often considered a good result.

Crew SC certainly isn’t happy with its road form. The Black & Gold has played well on the road and not gotten results, so the win over Chicago was big because it finally got the monkey off the back. If this team has the aspirations they say, another playoff appearance and a run at MLS Cup, the road form will have to improve. Otherwise, things won’t go well come the season’s end.


Question the Third
As well as home form, the Crew have leaned very heavily upon the goal-scoring exploits of Kei Kamara, who accounts for 14 of their 31 goals – nearly half. Furthermore, only five players have scored for Columbus this season. Are the Crew over-reliant on Kamara to provide their offense and aside from him, is it a concern that so few players have been able to contribute to the score-sheet this season?

With that said, Crew SC scored 52 goals a year ago with no consistent forward play. Ethan Finlay has done his part this year, but Justin Meram only has three goals and Federico Higuain has been able to play a more creative position, rather than focusing on scoring.

I know Berhalter would like to see other players contributing with goals, but if someone like Meram continues to contribute in other ways, that’s a positive.

Now if Kamara’s goals dry up for some reason, other players (Higuain, Meram, Tony Tchani) will have to get back in the scoring department.

I guess you cross that bridge when you come to it though with the way Kamara and Finlay are playing currently.


Barbed Question
With that March win over Toronto, Columbus has one hand on the Trillium Cup, after losing out to Toronto last season by the largest combined score in the trophy's history (8-4) and getting swept (only the second time that happened). Do the Crew really think they can take back that hallowed piece of silverware out of the hands of Toronto FC? Gregg Berhalter had some critical words about Toronto's monied-ways, not being the Columbus style, but seriously, if they could follow suit, would they not?

Well, a win on Saturday and it’s done and dusted for the Black & Gold.

Frankly, with the turnover in players that’s occurred over the last two years, I’m not sure how many guys on the roster are really aware of the Trillium Cup. The focus is on defeating an Eastern Conference rival and getting another three points. Winning the series, and subsequently the Cup, is just a cherry on top.

In terms of Berhalter’s comments about TFC’s financial situation, I don’t think he meant it any negative way. I’m sure any coach would love to have the finances to bring a Sebastian Giovinco for instance, but that’s not feasible in Columbus. The money is there if a player comes along (see Mix Diskerud last season), but it has to be the right player. Just two different philosophies.


Lineup?
Steve Clark
Chad Barson - Michael Parkhurst - Emanuel Pogatetz - Waylon Francis
Ethan Finlay - Tony Tchani - Wil Trapp - Justin Meram
Federico Higuain
Kei Kamara

The right back spot has been in rotation recently. Barson is just my guess there, but it could be Hector Jimenez or Chris Klute. Also, Tyson Wahl started the last two games at center back. I assume Pogatetz gets his spot back due to the size factor or Jozy Altidore, but Wahl played well enough that he may get the call.


Many thanks to Pat for spending some time with Waking the Red – he can be followed on Twitter @_Pat_Murphy_ – and be sure to check out all the latest Crew news over at Massive Report.

Waking the Red's answers to their questions can be found here - link will be live when available.