Crew Looking For Firepower
There have been several stories recently about the Crew looking for a scorer. Craig Merz was first last week recalling a bit of 2009’s struggles and how preseason is an effort to hone a previously inconsistent offense. Mitchell followed by noting that Coach Warzycha is still looking to find the right mix of players to spark a consistent offense. Now Mitchell is reporting that the Crew have an offer out to a foreign striker. Will this international striker solve the team’s offensive worries, perhaps, but I remain skeptical. I see the problem lying elsewhere.
The dangerous balanced attack of 2008, sputtered in 2009. The Crew struggled without the aerial prowess of Chad Marshall and inconsistent performances from Ale Moreno and Robbie Rogers. The 2009 team only scored 41 goals, compared to 50 in the MLS Cup winning year. Some of the drop can be attributed to schedule congestion and the forced lineup juggling, but I also think that Warzycha’s tactical shift towards a 4-4-2 also contributed to a one dimensional offense that proved easier to stop.
The revolving door in central midfield last year handicapped the Crew offense. Without linking play from the center and with Schelotto pushed up higher as more of a striker rather than a trequarista who can control the offense, the wings became far more important. The ball was often pushed outside to Gaven or Rogers by the backs in an effort to break out. Without much support in the middle, the only option would be to swing in a cross.
I would love to see the more balanced and flexible attack of 2008, but that is predicated on getting some possession from the midfield. Brian Carroll is an outstanding defensive midfielder who can connect the occasional pass, but he needs to be pared with player who is looking to make an offensive move.
The Crew tried Ekpo, Gaven, Burns, and O’Rourke to varying effect. With Schelotto playing higher, that midfield creator has to be a much better passer than Brad Evans was in 2008. Eddie Gaven could be that player, but he is valuable at right wing as well. O’Rourke is far too defensive minded, Burns and Moffat didn’t look like they could connect a series of passes together.
Without new personnel in the midfield, the Crew could try narrowing the field. It’s not a recreation of the magical 2008 offense, but it does provide flexibly. Tucking Rogers and Gaven in towards the middle would shorten the distance to connect passes and cover for the lack of inventiveness centrally.
This would free Schelotto to float to the sidelines in effort to find space and would allow for different points of attack. Schelotto picking out targets, Rogers and Gaven pushing up more centrally with freedom to move wide, overlapping runs from Padula and Hejduk, it certainly creates a distributed attack.
Take the above with a grain of salt. I am sure I have forgotten or overlooked something basic a gaping hole on defense perhaps, but I can certainly imagine the finer points of this offense being hard to contain. It’s an attack can change rapidly and doesn’t rely on a couple weak points. On the other hand, Coach Warzycha has decades of soccer experience and has a vision of what the 2010 will look like. For it’s faults, the 2009 Crew did win the Supporters Shield. I think he can safely ignore a back seat tactician.