Columbus Crew is up next for the New York Red Bulls and Massive Report’s Pat Murphy stopped by to fill us in on the Black & Gold.
Once A Metro: Last time our teams met, Columbus was on a lengthy unbeaten streak and looking like one of the better sides in the league. Since then, the Crew has lost four of its last six league games: a blip in form, or is something weightier dragging the team down?
Pat Murphy: This seems to be normal for Crew SC. I’m not sure why this team goes through a poor stretch every summer, but Gregg Berhalter always seems to figure things out as we get closer to the playoffs.
As for why this is happening, it starts and ends with the offense. Crew SC isn’t scoring goals, especially on the road. The team has three goals this year away from MAPFRE Stadium and two of those came in the opening game of the season. That was fine early on in the year when Columbus was grinding out 0-0 results on the road, but the competition level ramped up (starting with the game against the Red Bulls) and the Black & Gold are quickly learning that they aren’t quite the big boys.
This game will be another test to see if they’ve found something offensively. The team hopes to have Federico Higuain back, as he hasn’t started three of the last four, this week. He is always a big part of what they do offensively.
OaM: Gyasi Zardes is on track to finish this year with career highs in goals scored and minutes played in the MLS regular season. What’s happening for him in Columbus that wasn’t happening in LA?
PM: When it comes to Zardes, take everything I said above and throw it away. He is having a great year. Of the 27 goals Crew SC scored this season, Gyasi has 13. He’s doing his part.
The biggest difference for him, I think, is he’s playing in a Gregg Berhalter system. The Black & Gold’s plan is to get the striker in good positions to score in front of goal. It worked for Kei and Ola Kamara and now Zardes is reaping the benefits. I also think Zardes got a bad reputation in LA for things out of his control. He was hurt for a while and then he was playing on the wings or at fullback. When he’s put up top as a true No. 9, he finds ways to put the ball in the back of the net.
OaM: Are we any closer to knowing whether the Crew is moving to Austin?
PM: Ha, not exactly. There’s a lot going on, including lawsuits and politics, but I will say that things seem much more optimistic around here these days. There are rumors that we could be looking at the Crew, with new, local ownership, staying in Columbus, while Anthony Precourt gets to take a team where ever he would like (as Austin seems to ambivalent to professional soccer, even with Usain Bolt). That would probably be the best of both worlds (and create a cross-league rivalry between the Crew and Precourt F.C.), but Anthony/MLS has to be willing to sell to Columbus. Time will tell.