EDITORIAL – The Columbus Crew currently find themselves amidst a five-game losing streak after last night’s match at New York Red Bulls. During this stretch of games, The Crew have surrendered 13 goals and only scored five—abysmal quality on both ends of the field. Tonight offers a chance to right the ship. What would it take to change the course of the season? Let us look at what a change in formation might do for the Columbus Crew.
Analyzing the Columbus Crew formation change
Three in the back:
Let’s start in the backline. The current 4-2-3-1 formation has been the standard for The Crew for almost eight seasons now: a trademark of this formation is superior full backing. Head Coach Caleb Porter expects a lot out of his wide defenders. He counts on them to push forward to attack and then track back without losing a beat. Unfortunately, injuries and Father Time have caught up to Columbus’s fullback position.
In a proposed 3-4-3 Columbus Crew formation, we take out the need for multifaceted fullbacks. Three strong defensemen anchoring the position in front of Eloy Room. This allows the team to still have enough width to play out the back. Three defenders would ideally prevent scenarios where only the two center backs are screening in front of the goalie. With Vito Wormgoor back from injuries, this formation is now plausible. Johnathan Mensah is an obvious choice for the center position. Both Vito and Aboubacar Keita have and can play effectively alongside him.
Give the width a better chance to succeed:
Pedro Santos has filled in admirably in the fullback position this year. A move many did not know he was capable of. It can be argued, he has been our most consistent wide defender. Unfortunately for The Crew to succeed, Pedro should be one of the best attacking players.
In this proposed position, Caleb can push Pedro up the field slightly. Ultimately, easing his defending responsibility and moving the ball forward with whoever is slotted in front of him at the wing.
On the right side, anyone of The Crew’s right-backs can enjoy a little more protection. It has been tough to watch Harrison Afful be the last line of defense this late in his career. He’s a Crew legend. The team was prolific during his time here, oftentimes, because of how dynamic he was running up and down the right side of the pitch. Those days have passed. A 3-4-3 formation can at the very least give him some coverage behind him. Although Afful’s lost a step, he’s still talented enough to contribute in a formation that does not ask him to cover the entire length of the field.
Get Lucas North:
Herein lies the most crucial change. Lucas Zelareyan is capable of amazing feats on the football field. He can take over any moment. Zelarayan has single-handedly saved The Crew multiple times this year. Lucas is also capable of dribbling the team out of possession and stopping any attack from formulating.
Lucas Zelarayan keeps trying to dribble everyone and losing the ball. Pedro Santos is visibly frustrated that Zelarayan didn't make the pass on this one, and rightly so. #Crew96 pic.twitter.com/hAw8CqIOKN
— Eliot McKinley (@etmckinley) August 15, 2021
This occurs most often when he receives the ball farther back in the defensive areas of the field. A 3-4-3, alongside Darlington Nagbe, can automatically push him forward with enough options out wide where he doesn’t feel the need to work all by himself. Lucas could lay it off to Pedro or Afful then make a move into the space vacated by a Gyasi Zardes run, or he can hang back and spray the ball to the attacking wings like Kevin Molino or Derrick Etienne. Either of which is a more efficient attacking move than long drawn-out dribbles with his head down.
Caleb Porter has a reputation for being stubborn, almost to a fault. A four-game losing streak and dropping below the playoff line is as good a time as any to shake things up. The talent on the roster is undeniable. It is time to put that talent in a position to win.