Game 3: Crew 1 – Real Salt Lake 4
Repeating championships are hard and the truly awful performance by the Crew would make it impossible. Columbus looked completely unprepared for the game against Real Salt Lake. It’s true that the schedule has been tough, opening on the road against a talented Houston team, followed up with an improved Toronto team and then an immediate West Coast swing. While international duty and injuries have sapped the team of much needed depth, it’s clear that something is not right with the Columbus Crew.
The uniforms and players were familiar, but the performance was foreign. Playing unimaginative, ponderous, direct soccer, I was reminded of Crew teams of years past. Not the 2008 Crew, but the abysmal teams of 2005 and 2006. The team lacked a cohesiveness and each player seemed to be playing a different game. Ekpo and Carroll were repeatedly bypassed by a defense that booted the ball forward. Rogers and Gaven could not do anything on the wings. The defense could not handle the speed of the Salt Lake forwards.
It is only the third game of the season, far too early to panic, but there are problems to solve. Obviously having Hejduk at right back would help on both offense and defense. Moreno is a vital cog to keeping the offense functioning. Jason Garey has done well, but he cannot hold up the ball like Ale. The central pairing of Carroll and Ekpo needs to improve. Moffat would be a nice option to start to really add more bite and possession to the midfield, but his injury will keep him out a while longer.
It seems teams have figured out to pressure the Crew high up the field, especially the outside backs. The Crew have not been able to build possession as Padula and Zayner have not been able to connect with the midfield. The crew had a good stretch midway through the first half. The ball was switched from side to side and the midfield was involved, but the renaissance was short-lived. Soon Salt Lake pressure prompted the Crew to boot it long and the Crew looked awful again. It will be easy to tell if the Crew are going to stay in Sunday’s game, is the team booting it or do you see Carroll and Ekpo touch the ball more than once every five minutes.