Wednesday, February 5, 2014

2.5.2014: Columbus Crew vs. Malmo, Crewture Minute-by-Minute Recap

The Minute-by Minute Pulsating Preseason Recap of the Crew vs. Malmo
By Ryan Kozlowski
Crewture Editor

Today, the Columbus Crew received their first test to prove themselves in 2014, facing off against Ibrahimovic's former side Malmo FF.

There were a couple Crew winners in game one, such as;
-Rookie Fifi Baiden,
-the front four attackers in the second half, that were playing a bit harder,
-Steve Clark who impressed and has a commanding presence in the box,
-and also Matt Lampson, who showed that the number one goalkeeper position isn't yet predestined for Clark.

There were also some newcomers and veteran faces that could've debuted 2014 a bit more impressively, with a bit more footballing grace.

However, it's game one, and all-in-all there are positives to take from this first preseason kick.

Mainly, A clean sheet. A win.

But, also a thankfulness. A thankfulness that no one on the current Malmo squad can jump on a mistake like Zlatan can.

Without checking out the score, here are my thoughts from the action.

Pre-game Lineup: Gregg Berhalter is mixing veterans with younger players to start off this pre-season game. Not exactly unheard of or different from Warzycha.

A "everyone show me what you have and let's not worry about starters yet" approach. Or maybe a "let's have some balance and not get blown out" approach. Whichever, nothing really revolutionary for the start of MLS preseason, unless perhaps if you write for a MLS club.

6'6 center back Patrick Slogic could add some massive height to the defense, interesting to see him get a go to start the preseason; Especially next to Parkhurst, who just got off of World Cup camp.

Baiden and Sweat are interesting to me, especially Baiden who impressed in the game I saw at UC Santa Barbara. Seen both in person as a Producer of college games this Fall.

Malmo, defending Swedish champions, going with mostly starters (according to announcer) as they prepare for the second half of their season. My first thoughts going into this was uhh-oh.

Who produced this game? Producer of this game should've move the scoreboard a bit further up (perhaps out of the center of the action). Also, if you can have a scoreboard like that, it's a tricaster livetext or similiar program and it's rather easy to add a clock to your scoreboard. So, on both accounts, pretty amateur MLS.

MLS also rocking the not so good SD camera. It's not too much for one used HD Panasonic camera. They couldn't find one in Florida?

A lot of these non-televised online feeds, that goes for Columbus's Open Cup feeds (which often go offline), could be better from MLS.

MLS needs to step up their preseason production by a lot (and it could be done easily and more consistently). A lot of overseas people check these out and I could barely make out what was going on this game (just would look more first class with some consistency). Yes, it was foggy, but with some HD cameras, it wouldn't have been that awful.

Anyway, to the action.

4': Ben Sweat showing some speed and footskills early on, on the left. Still trying to earn a contract per announcer. But, may have more attack to him, perhaps a little less confidence defensively compared to left back Tyson Wahl. But, good move there to start.

6': If Baiden can continue to show his promise, might have an improvement at DM if you wanted to stick him in their as a duo with Trapp.

8': Finley and Anor trying to get some nice combination play going, but fizzles out as quickly as it was thought about.

9': Sweat got burned by Rosenborg on the right side, not a good angle, caught out of place early on.

11': Nice job by Ricardinho of Malmo working a one two on the Crew's right back Barson and right midfielder Jimenez. Crew looking a bit slow in defense, and Jimenez a bit sluggish, first game habits hopefully don't continue defensively for some.

13': When talking about being aggressive offensively, not sure what the point of playing Finley alone up top, on an island, is?

If the Crew scores a goal it's going to obviously be in the second half with more creative forces such as Oduro, Arrieta, and even Meram.

14': Crew defense getting burned again on Malmo dummy play in front of 18. If Malmo cared to score they could have a couple.

15': Baiden is looking like a player who can be useful this year. I like his center of gravity, speed, fast decisions so far.

18': Baiden with a great ball over the top. Doing what a good DM does, not holding too long. In and out, and switching the attack.

21': Bad mistake there from Baiden, bad place to give up the ball and have a foul created. An example of why it's way too early to formulate opinions of rookie greatness.

23': Nice save by Lampson, could we get a replay? no, ok.

25': Sweat and Slogic participating in about 15 seconds of defensive comedy, finally clear it out for a corner.

27': Finley with a smart run down the right side, not sure why he is over there as the one striker, but good ball to Baiden creates free kick opportunity.

30': Crew not looking so bright creatively up top.

31': Nice feet and switch by Federico Higuain to Ben Sweat. Instead of doing what a good left back does and trying to beat a defender and get down the line. Does a Simon Elliot-back pass, receives the ball back from Baiden, and on his second attempt passes it to Malmo's right back. Totally wastes Higuain's chance by failing to get up the line fast when there was still some surprise there.

33': Jimenez with a stupid foul at midfield. Not a very impressive opening so far from him, looks out of sorts.

34': Higuain and Trapp try to get something going in the midfield. First time I've seen some life in the midfield, some pass and move.

35': Lampson was looking good until that throw went right to a Malmo midfielder for an uncontested shot for the Malmo player from 30 out. Malmo kind of sucks up top with finishing, or don't really care to. Not making the most of some sloppy plays in the back from Columbus.

This first half lineup from Berhalter doesn't make a ton of sense, not much cohesion, but guess Gregg didn't want it to get away from them second half by having a top heavy first half lineup.

36': Jimenez with a nice win, and then transferring it into a Crew attack. Hopefully he can build something with that play. As a player after a bad start, it's all about trying to do one thing right, and build it into five good plays, then ten.

36': Crew do nothing with Jimenez's win, way way way too slow in transition. Would like to see some of these guys on the bubble to start or to make the team, to take some chances when there 70 yards from their own goal.

38': Ben Sweat has space down the left and is afraid to attack it as this first half goes on. I guess he doesn't want to make a mistake.

38': Slogic almost gets killed with his pace over the top. Barson with a nice cover. Perhaps they could convert Slogic into a Jan Koller.

39': I like that Baiden is willing to try things, compared to what Sweat has done in this first half.

41': Nice tackle by Wil Trapp, quietly doing some good things, looking obviously more confident than a lot of the rest of this eleven.

42': Nice work by Anor, Jimenez, and Higuain. Finley finally gets a touch and falls down.. Ugh, make a move, make something happen. A big striker like that shouldn't fall down with such ease.

43': Nice clear by Lampson to Barson. Despite one distribution, solid start for his battle with Clark.

First half lineup:
Lampson (6.5)- Solid saves, some nice distributions, but one very bad one. All in all showing he isn't going quietly in the night for that starting spot.
Barson (5.5)- Wasn't noticeable with his mistakes, except being caught out once. But, that was more of Jimenez covering and them both getting beat on a one two, with Barson more inside. Was crucial covering for Slogic on a couple of occasions. Had some other nice decisions to start attacks as the half went on. Not a bad start.
Slogic (3.5)- Slow, almost beat a few times. Not terrible for an undrafted rookie, but Malmo should've been able to take advantage of him a bit more.
Parkhurst (5.5)- Had some nice decisions to start attacks, like a good ground ball that went 30 yards and Higuain muffed early on. Didn't catch my attention much one way or the other. But, gets credit for a first half clean sheet stuck between Slogic and Sweat. Would actually like to see his class at left back, Parkhurst might be more of an attack option out there compared to anyone else we have. He is a smaller guy, has good feet, wouldn't be averse to take MLS guys on out there.
Sweat (3.5)- He's afraid he's going to make a mistake. Would like to see him attack the space he received on the left side multiple times, instead he kept passing it back to Baiden. Make some moves out there offensively and let Baiden and Parkhurst cover you. Finally got down there and got a cross off in the last minute.
Baiden (6.5)- For a rookie a solid first half for Columbus. Has confidence, willing to take people on, thread a needle with a ball. Doesn't hold onto it for too long, in and out, doing what a DM should do.  But, on the other hand, terrible giveaway and foul, that gave Malmo a real chance. Overall though promising for Columbus, they could use a few more new guys like this.
Trapp (6)- Did some things well, made some good defensive tackles, got some attacks going and knew when to join into attack. Nothing remarkable, but a good first run out. Trapp seemed to have a good understanding with Baiden for a first game. They covered decently well for the backline.
Jimenez (4.5)- Just kind of sloppy and out of sorts. Got burned on a one two that Malmo should've took better advantage of. Had a couple unnecessary fouls at midfield. Started slow. Had a nice tackle later on, and then got more involved with Higuain and Anor.
Anor (5)- Did some nice things with Higuain, but all in all didn't get enough touches in the first half. Fed Finley well, but the few things Anor and Higuain created died with Finley, Sweat, or others.
Higuain (5.5)- Had some great flashes, and conducted most of the limited combination play in the Crew midfield. But, sometimes needs to take it more upon himself to change a game, or Berhalter needs to give Higuain more of an ability to change things in game because a lot was not working offensively in that first half.

Could've done more to connect with Finley.

Finley (3.5)- Got one significant touch all first half, after some nice play by Anor and Higuain. On his one touch, one on one with a defender in the box, just fell down and hoped for a penalty with very limited contact. If he's not getting involved, either he needs to collect the ball deeper in midfield and hold it up to connect more with Higuain. Or Higuain needs to move further up into the attack and Baiden/Trapp could push up a bit more. Instead neither him or Higuain did anything to remedy the lack of yellow in the opponents 18, nor did they seem to do much communicating (partly because they were so far away from each other).

I understand that Berhalter was probably using Finley as the one striker to hold things up, while Jimenez, Higuain, and Anor joined the attack. But, if the Crew ever play with one striker there better off with someone who can creatively hold onto the ball like Meram or even Oduro (in a different way). Finley has more of a use in a two striker system, where he can be that striker to create havoc and pounce on chances with his strength in a more congested box. Not a great idea offensively for the first half.

Not entirely Finley's fault, the top four just wasn't the greatest mix and a lot of strikers work better in a two man system.

47': A lot more going on already between Meram, Speas, Oduro, and Arrieta. If anyone is surprised.

49': Producer forgot the scoreboard this half, oh well, tough thing to remember.

50': Nice outlet by Steve Clark to Dominic Oduro, trying to make a good first impression. And Oduro not missing a step from last season it seems, nice turn, run, and cross to Arrieta. Malmo's defense has just a bit more to deal with this half.

52': Nice cross by Meram, nice start by Arrieta, getting a goal in his first minutes after a stop/start 2013.

Formation makes a lot more sense with this second half group up top.

55': Clark with another solid distribution to Meram. Before that not bad hold'em up play by Friedman, but a lackadaisical giveaway by George.

56': Friedman with a nice header back to Clark.

58': Meram doing an excellent job tracking back defensively. As a fourth year guy he deserves more of a chance than he received under Warzycha.

59': Nice job by Ben Speas in midfield, this whole group is looking a lot more confident and on the same page with what they're doing. Not surprising with all being much more familiar with each other.

And, well, that's all I have for the second half as the saved feed on youtube skips from 60th minute mark to stoppage time, but Clark looks impressive and so does the front four of that second half formation.

I would be almost tempted with putting that front four as is, and then perhaps putting Higuain next to Trapp behind them, putting Parkhurst and Francis on the outside, and signing someone at center defense to pair up next to Williams.

The Crew may be alright in midfield, but still think they could use one more central defender and striker from overseas. If they could just get those two things, with there cap space that there not looking to use, there more of a playoff contender then. Hope I'm wrong, just not overwhelmed with some of our defensive options.


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