Thursday, February 10, 2011

Going over the top: Columbus' set piece battles

Over the last few seasons there has been one main way for The Crew to net goals: set pieces. Back in 2008 the service of Schelotto and the Ariel prowess of players like Chad Marshall and Alejandro Moreno made corner kicks and final third fouls a dangerous proposition for those opposing the Black and Gold. This high flying attack wasn't the only means of production though. The Crew could still count on goals from the run of play to keep teams honest and prompt those dangerous fouls. The Crew could keep the game moving but still hit hard when the opposition forced a stoppage. In 2009 this fell off but did not entirely disappear letting the team scrape out another supporters shield despite a poor finish to the season. Year two of the Robert Warzycha project though saw the well all but run dry. The Massive club became almost entirely reliant on set piece goals to keep them in matches as the team struggled to find the net from the run of play. This predictability became a major liability, in 2010 if you could stop the set pieces you could stop Columbus.

Since the end of last season the team has undergone a major overhaul. Warzycha is no longer looking to be pegged to lining up in formation and charging headlong for the cross the way he had in season past. The plan is to switch from the classical set piece engagements that got the team bogged down to a more rapid war of movement. Think of it as going from WWI to WWII, from trenches to blitzkrieg. The problem however will lie in it's implementation. Switching styles is never an easy task, the culture of lining up and waiting for the whistle to send you up and over an opponent may have taken too deep of root to work out quickly. The result of which could be a slow and painful start to the season for fans of the Massive club. Given the early results in the preseason many fans may begin to wonder if we're adapting properly. In the first two matches all the Crew's goals have once again come from Set pieces. The question then is when will we see the change in style that was promised after the off-season purge. With limited time and options before the first match against Salt Lake it is unlikely the teams new tactics will be on full display. Warzycha will likely have to "attack the enemy's strategy" as Sun Tzu would say. He'll have to tailor the Crew to take on the Royals before he can tailor the Crew to be the Crew. Something that maybe a problem given his desire to totally shift the team's style and the limited time before First Kick. The good news things are still in their very early stages. The Crew won their third preseason match 3-0 with both Mendoza and Cunningham scoring. Not to mention that often times preseason is a poor indicator of how a team will actually play during the season. However given the frustration last year and with the first Champions League match less than two weeks away people are understandably nervous. They don't want to see another season stuck in the trenches and being forced to go over the top.


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