tBG) Kei Kamara is leading the MLS Golden Boot race, and Ethan Finlay is one behind Cristian Maidana in the assists race. While that combination is certainly fearsome, is there more to the Columbus offense?
MR) There is when all the piece are there. Last week Columbus Crew SC fans saw what happens when the offense is just Finlay. He wasn't able to find teammates like he normally does. While he did have Higuain alongside him, the two were not enough to break down the compact FC Dallas defense.
Before that game, the Black & Gold began to find offense in other areas. Jack McInerney, Cedrick Mabwati, and Justin Meram all came off the bench to score in the previous three matches. Higauin even scored a goal with head off a corner kick. Tony Tchani has a career high in goals (5). And it hasn't been all about goals either. Meram's having a down year statistically from what he did last season, but continues to be a menace taking on opposing team's defenses. Higuain does so much more besides score goal or register assists, because he doesn't have to be THE guy this year, that goes unrecognized around the league.
While the numbers point specifically to Kamara and Finlay, there is a lot of offensive talent on this team. With everyone back - assuming they are all rested enough to play Saturday - it should be evident the impact some of the guys make.
2.) Columbus suffered a lopsided loss the last time out against FC Dallas. What do they need to do to rebound from that?
MR) Get players back. Honestly, it was a perfect storm of issues in that match. Both teams were without key starters, so that's not really an excuse. But Crew SC had debutant center back Gastón Sauro knocked out of the game with a head injury just two minutes into the game. Then Higuain missed a penalty kick that would have given the Black & Gold the lead. Shortly after, Columbus gives up a goal on a poorly defended corner kick (Kamara has been the team's best set piece defender) and FCD put eight behind the ball and looked for the counter.
That's exactly what happened. Scoring first has been big for Crew SC this year because it forces the opponent out of that strategy. Not having a guy like Kamara, big, strong, athletic, and great in the air, and Meram, can dribble through multiple players and pull defenders out of position, meant the attack got stagnant when Columbus was in the attacking third with so many defenders around.
3.) We all know Kamara, Finlay, Federico Higuain, and Jack McInerney. Who on the Columbus team is someone who doesn't get a whole lot of attention but is a critical piece of the puzzle?
MR) I mentioned Meram before, but I'll say Wil Trapp. The kid is quickly becoming one of the best holding midfielders in the league. He's already had his first cap with the national team, although he was deployed on the wing in that game, and just got back from a trip with the U-23s. While he was out with concussion issues early in the season, the Black & Gold were a mess. Since his return, the team is winning games and is better defensively. He knows where to be on the field and where to put the ball. Although Michael Parkhurst is the captain, it is Trapp who keeps things organized, barking all over the field.
Projected Lineup: Steve Clark; Harrison Afful, Michael Parkhurst, Tyson Wahl, Waylon Francis; Ethan Finlay, Tony Tchani, Wil Trapp, Justin Meram; Federico Higuain; Kei Kamara