From a physical perspective, Crew SC midfielders Mohammed Saeid and Tony Tchani have little-to-nothing in common.
Tchani is 6-foot-4, 185 pounds, using his massive frame to win the ball in the Black & Gold midfield to feed playmaker Federico Higuaín in the attack. Saeid stands 5-foot-7 and weighs 140 pounds soaking wet, but utilizes his stature to snake around the opposition, stealing possession and providing the link between defense and the final third.
Each brings a different quality to the Crew SC midfield, and after Saeid impressed his teammates, coaches and supporters alike, Gregg Berhalter has a tall task in deciding which of the pair starts alongside Wil Trapp centrally going forward.
"That was the idea of how we built this roster, just to try to have guys competing for positions," the Crew SC Sporting Director and Head Coach said. "We base it on their body of work, and we base it on their training. I think [competition] is going to be really important for [Tchani and Saeid].
"These things, we don’t make snap decisions. We judge it on how they’ve been working over a period of time."
Saeid was an influental piece in the center of the park, helping the Black & Gold to an 87% pass completion against the Reds. Berhalter lauded Saeid's ability to carve out a pass in tight spaces, especially in transition.
"You look at his passing in the game [versus Toronto FC], it was outstanding," he said. "He didn’t give many passes away. He’s good on the turn. That’s what we identified in him. It’s nice to see him get in a real game and perform like that."
Despite his performance, Saeid is open to competition with Tchani and others for playing time. Berhalter's choice may simply come down to matching up with a specific opponent.
"Tony is more technical than what people think. I see it in training every day, and I asked him about the game when he was suspended, I asked him about the positioning of where he would be standing — trying to find my own space too," the Swedish midfielder said. "With my technical ability, I have to make use of it the most because I’m not the biggest guy. I’ve got to be more clever and faster with the ball."
"We’ve got five different center midfielders, and we’ve all got different qualities. It’s just about finding the balance of how [one player] plays and how he might adjust to me."