Columbus Crew got off to a great start scoring seven goals in its first three games. The offense was clicking and Gregg Berhalter was an early candidate for Coach of the Year.
However, things have changed since the end of March. The Crew has not been able to pick up a full three points, securing four points from eight games.
Granted, Columbus has conceded in every game they’ve played since April, but the main problem for the men in black and gold is their lack of offensive production. Prior to scoring three goals against Portland last weekend, the Crew had not scored in its previous three games.
Berhalter’s ill-advised decisions are behind the Crew’s barren offense. In his first season as a coach in Major League Soccer, the American has chosen to use a 4-4-1-1 formation. At first look, this formation seems perfectly okay, but a quick glance at the roster shows that this formation is a recipe for failure.
The former Los Angeles Galaxy defender puts his team in a compromising position before the players step out on the field. Because the team’s offense is so easy to read and defend, the defense is put under tremendous pressure.
The 40-year-old’s coach first and biggest mistake is using 5-foot-9 Jairo Arrieta as center forward and not providing sufficient support. Even though he’s a goal poacher, the veteran Costa-Rican does not have the qualities of a forward capable of relieving pressure by holding up the ball. He’s more comfortable running in behind defenders to receive a pass, not battling them in the air.
Arrieta’s size and inability to act as a target striker takes its tow on the Crew’s game plan. Under duress, the defenders can’t play a long ball forward because they know it’ll be sent back. Instead, they try to pass out of the back and end giving the ball away.
Due to the lack of a traditional No. 9 and Berhalter’s faulty formation, Federico Higuain is under an outrageous amount of pressure. The Argentine is asked to be the bridge between the midfield and Arrieta, while generating chances for the wingers and scoring goals.
Even though Higuain has accepted the responsibility, scoring six goals and creating three, the lack of support and a physical presence isn’t allowing him to achieve his full potential. The playmaker is too isolated in the middle because the central midfielders aren’t closer to him, the wingers are hugging the sideline and Arrieta is being shadowed by two towering center backs.
Dominic Oduro, the team’s leading scorer last season, hasn’t scored a goal in nine appearances because of the defective formation. The natural winger position doesn’t suit Oduro because he is farther away from the goal than he’s used to.
The Ghanaian, a natural center forward, scored 13 goals last season because the Crew used a 4-2-3-1 formation. He played on the right side of the three attackers camped behind Arrieta. He was much closer to goal, which meant he could use his pace to get past defenders and he also helped relieve the pressure on Higuain.
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