COLUMBUS -- The World Cup break is a good time to examine where the Columbus Crew have been and where they’re headed in the final 19 matches of the season.
Crew assistant coach Mike Lapper summarized the 6-2-3 record and a tie for first with New York in the Eastern Conference.
“There are two realities,” he said. “We’re still doing well, but we’ve got only one point out of the last three games.”
The Crew were 6-0-2 before Los Angeles exited Crew Stadium with a 2-0 win on May 29. Although they lost, Columbus felt a positive vibe after posting 24 shots getting 15 corner kicks.
The truth is, though, that the Crew’s play was not exceptional. How could it be when they managed only four shots on goal, especially with all those corners? Unless the rules have been changed, the object is still to put the ball into the net, not near it.
In the next match, at San Jose, the Crew were happy with their dominating start but failed to build on a 1-0 lead and settled for a 2-2 tie.
Finally, it was the same old story at Colorado on June 5: satisfied with the effort and performance, but not the result in a 1-0 loss because of lax defending.
OVERALL GRADE – (B-): Considering the Crew were 2-2-7 at this juncture last season, being tied for third in the race for the Supporters’ Shield this year is not bad. Columbus are still the class of the conference, but there isn’t a single area that couldn’t use improving.
FORWARDS – (D): The lack of a pure scorer is prominent. Guillermo Barros Schelotto had three goals (one via penalty kick) in the first three games, but has scored only once since.
Midfielder Eddie Gaven has as many goals (one) in his 60-plus minute stint up top at New York as forwards Steven Lenhart and Jason Garey have in a combined 1,098 minutes. Lenhart is on pace to match the three goals he had in 2009.
Hotshot offseason signee Sergio Herrera has played one minute and has been relegated to the side of a milk carton while Emilio Renteria moved to the wing and has found success.
Maybe it’s time to recall 2010 SuperDraft second-round pick Bright Dike.
MIDFIELDERS - (C): Gaven has been the most consistent player besides being slotted into numerous positions. He’s the early leader for team MVP with three goals and two assists.
Robbie Rogers has so much speed and talent yet so little to show for it. Emmanuel Ekpo hasn’t done much off the bench and Renteria has surpassed him as the reserve of choice on the flank. Adam Moffat has disappointed in the middle only because more was expected of him defensively.
For two years Brian Carroll had been the perfect defensive midfielder by going unnoticed. He’s made more mistakes this season than the past two combined, but he seems to be over the hump.
The Crew have only six goals from the run of play and it can’t all be blamed on the forwards.
DEFENDERS – (C+): An incomplete might be appropriate because of the number of combined games (18) missed by the backline due to injuries and suspensions. However, they are still a veteran corps that are making rookie mistakes.
The Crew have four shutouts but have looked shaky recently without the injured Frankie Hejduk and Danny O’Rourke. Andy Iro has two goals and Chad Marshall one off set pieces to contribute at the other end, but the lack of speed in the back has, and will, continue to be exploited.
GOALKEEPER – (B-): Although William Hesmer is fourth in MLS with a 1.00 Goals-Against-Average, he has not been at his best. He’s let in too many softies and hasn’t commanded the box as well as he has in the past.
OUTLOOK: Five of the next six games are at home and four are against conference foes, plus two against struggling Houston. A strong push out of the break and the Crew can put a stranglehold on the East heading into August and the start of the Champions League schedule.