Change came quickly to the Columbus Crew in the wake of long-time manager Robert Warzycha’s dismissal. In truth, there was little to lose by throwing caution to the wind.
Turns out eschewing cautiousness was exactly the mindset needed to spark the club, which recorded a third straight and fourth overall victory under interim head coach Brian Bliss by a 4-2 scoreline in Dallas last weekend.
Rather than the rigid, narrow game that Crew fans had grown accustomed to, the match at FC Dallas was a wide-open affair. Both teams had their chances, and large portions of the match were spent with the clubs sprinting at one another on the break, rather than employing slow build-up play. For Bliss, the strategy hasn't necessarily been to spread the field, but to focus on quick movement.
“It's up-tempo, get after it, win the ball back, get to goal quickly,” he told reporters at training on Thursday. “We've been preaching these things, and I think it's proven out on the field. I think the players are enjoying the way we play.”
While it may not be the focus, Bliss admitted that the matches have been wide-open affairs. And while he said it might not be realistic to maintain that style for a full season, it's “who we are” and the way he likes to play.
In the middle, young central midfielder Wil Trapp has flourished as the team’s anchor, and Bliss said Trapp's game has become more diverse in the process.
“When guys are willing to move off the ball and open things up, he has more options. Some short, some medium and some long range,” Bliss said. “He has the tactical know-how to hold that middle down by himself, so we don't need an extra buffer in there. It gives us an extra guy for the other team to be worried about that can go forward, so it's worked out well.”
Trapp's role earlier in the season was to sit in front of the Crew defense and distribute. But as he has grown in confidence, his play has become more varied and aggressive, highlighted by his first career assist for Federico Higuain's August 10 golazo against New York (watch above).
“The more games you play, the more confident you are to make those passes,” Trapp told reporters on Thursday. “At the beginning, you just kind of want to get your feet under you and connect plays. I've been in for 13 straight games and I'm more comfortable with the guys around me. They trust me and I trust them, so that's a huge part of it.”
Trapp credited improved wing play from Bernardo Añor and September MLS Player of the Month Dominic Oduro for spreading the field and opening his passing lanes.
“I think keeping [Oduro] and [Añor] wide helps [midfielder Tony Tchani] and I find that space, and makes [Higuain] more dangerous,” he said. “I think we can find those passes and kind of get the team to chase us a little bit.”