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3 Columbus Crew Questions with SB Nation's Massive Report

This week Pat Murphy, who covers all things Columbus, helps us navigate our way around the Crew.

Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

Each week we do a Q&A with our friends around the SBNation soccer world to get thoughts on their team from those who know them best. Know your enemy!

As we count down to the New York City FC and Columbus Crew SC showdown later today at 7:30PM, we are joined by contributor Pat Murphy to answer our Crew-related questions.

Columbus had a fantastic 2015 campaign that saw the team finish second in the Eastern Conference on the strength of their second ranked offensive attack. 2016 has not gone to plan so far, however as Crew have managed only two points through its first five games. The offense, which was so potent in 2015, has disappeared in the early stages of 2016.

Pat helps us navigate around the Crew and their issues, breaking down the offense, injury concerns, and whether or not everyone in Columbus is freaking out over the slow start.


Q. In reviewing this year with the last one, the thing that jumps out at me is goal-scoring - It hasn't come yet for Columbus this year. This is in stark contrast to last season, where Crew scored the second most goals in MLS. What has been inhibiting goal-scoring so far this year? Does it have to do with players, or is the league catching up with something tactically? Do you think this trend continues, or is the sample size too small?

Pat. I think it's a little bit of everything you mentioned above. Three goals through five games is unacceptable, I don't care who you are. A couple things have happened for Crew SC this year. First, almost all the teams they've faced have adopted a sit back and counter mentality. This makes it hard to get balls in the box where a player like Kei Kamara is so dangerous. This is not the first time the Black & Gold have faced this, but the execution hasn't been great.

This brings me to point two. So far this season the Black & Gold haven't operated at the high level they've managed over the last two years. The possession numbers are still high but passing has been fairly poor at times leading to give aways and those counter attacks. While it has been a a tough start, this will be only the second home game, Crew SC haven't played at the level fans are accustom to watching. Could a return home this weekend change things? We shall see.

Q. What has been the response from the fan base so far given the poor start to the season? Many projected Columbus as a Playoff team with a chance at winning the cup. Is there still patience among the ranks of supporters? What kind of changes might we see if things don't improve soon?

Pat. Fans are not happy, that much is clear. As I mentioned above, it's not just that the results haven't gone the club's way but how the team is playing. The usually dominant style hasn't worked so far and fans are wondering if the lack of a plan B is more of an issue in the third year under Gregg Berhalter.

At Massive Report, we've advocating staying patient. Yes, this team has been much more difficult to watch this year, but Berhalter knows what he's doing and the players haven't gotten worse at this game. It's taking a while to figure out how to play with a target on their backs and making the adjustments needed to break down the defensive setups they've seen, but I'm of the belief it will come. Crew SC fans can be a bit panicky anyway, so a winless start hasn't helped matters.

As for what will change, I don't think much. We've seen Mohammed Saeid alongside Wil Trapp in the central midfield over Tony Tchani the last two games to mixed results (one tie and one defeat). Right now Berhalter is married to this system, but if the Black & Gold are still struggling in the summer months, maybe we could see a shift to a 4-4-2 or something to get another true forward on the field with Kamara. It's tough to say because this is the worst stretch on paper since Berhatler arrived at the club, so we don't know much of how willing he is to make changes or continue to work what's worked in the past.

Q. I saw Gaston Sauro is set to miss up to a month of playing time. What does his loss mean for Crew and who fills in for Sauro, Wahl or Tarek? What is the scouting report for each player?

Pat. It will likely be Tyson Wahl in the center of defense with Sauro out. He has proven to be a quality backup over the last few years and Berhalter has trust in him. With that said, I've liked what I've seen from Amro Tarek. You have to take that with a grain of salt because those minutes came in exhibition games against Notre Dame and the Pittsburgh Riverhounds, but he looks like a capable MLS player.

With Wahl you get a guy who understands this league. He's played for five teams in his 11-year MLS career and knows this league forward and backward. At his advanced age, he's not an every game player any more, but he is capable to fill in when needed and has played some big minutes over the last two seasons.

Tarek is a bit of an unknown quantity. Berhalter said he likes what he's seen out of the Egyptian who is on loan from Real Betis. He is a big, physical back who appears to understand positioning and what it takes to play the center back role. It will be interesting to see if he gets some minutes while Sauro is out.

Projected lineup (4-4-1-1):
Steve Clark;
Harrison Afful - Michael Parkhurst - Tyson Wahl - Waylon Francis;
Ethan Finlay - Mohammed Saeid - Wil Trapp - Justin Meram;
Federico Higuain;
Kei Kamara

2-1 Crew SC, but I'm awful at these things.

Here's hoping Pat is actually awful at these things. Have your own prediction? Let us know in the comments section!