A few thoughts as the Crew works to turn the page on last weekend's 2-0 loss to Toronto FC.
The offensive game plan left something to be desired.
Somewhere during the second half, I wondered on Twitter whom, exactly, to whom the Crew was attempting to cross the ball. Dominic Oduro led the team with 13 goals last season, but I'm not sure a single one came by getting his head on a cross from the flanks.
A few thoughts as the Crew works to turn the page on last weekend’s 2-0 loss to Toronto FC.
The offensive game plan left something to be desired.
Somewhere during the second half, I wondered on Twitter to whom, exactly, to whom the Crew was attempting to cross the ball. Dominic Oduro led the team with 13 goals last season, but I’m not sure a single one came by getting his head on a cross from the flanks.
After the game, coach and sporting director Gregg Berhalter was essentially asked if the Crew had a contingency plan as the game wore on and the chances of actually scoring off a cross were dimming. He replied that the majority of his team’s goals this season had come on crosses, which was true. Yesterday after training, he admitted that the plan did not play to some of his team’s strengths.
“It was a difficult game for (Oduro),” he said. “We know Dom’s strengths and his weaknesses. That was a difficult game. Our game plan was difficult to execute. He’s not the guy that’s going to thrive on 39 crossed balls. It’s on us a little bit in terms of getting him into the game and getting him going and I don’t think we did a good job of that.”
Midfielder Ethan Finlay said the game gives the Crew an idea of how teams might plan to defend them going forward. Four games into the season, a blueprint for each team is starting to emerge.
Early-season preparations for a team going through as many changes as the Crew can be difficult.
“What (the loss) said to us was we know now what other teams are going to do to us,” he said. “ They might try to get compact, stay in a little bit and be compact and we have to learn how to break them down. I think that was one of the first times that we’ve seen that.”
Complacency is a dangerous thing.
Berhalter said during the postgame press conference that his team looked complacent in the early going, stating that the Crew’s players expected their Toronto counterparts to come in and essentially give up due to the players missing from their lineup.
That, to me, says it might be time to shake up the lineup a little bit. Berhalter admitted yesterday that the situation could be handled one of two ways.
“This group that began (the game), show us that it’s going to be different and that you’ve learned from it,” he said. “The other way is to say it’s not good enough, we’re going to make some changes. We’re yet to determine which way to go.”
Good training does not always produce good results.
One day before the game, Berhalter said the week had been a strong one even as captain Michael Parkhurst was away for most of it while with the United States national team.
“We actually had a really good week of training despite some of the conditions,” he said April 4. “It was a good week. I thought we’d be a little stale after the flight and after the turf game but guys responded well this week and had a lot of energy.”
After both the game and yesterday’s training session, Berhalter said the on-field result came as a surprise after the previous week’s work.
In hindsight, though, Berhalter said things could have gone differently.
“We talked about (the week leading into the Toronto game) and personally I thought it was a really good week of training,” he said. “I think maybe the buildup to the game could have been, from our side we could have, maybe we were a little too calm going into the game. Maybe we could have been more getting the guys up in a game like that. We learned a good lesson.”
Does that mean perhaps the coaches were too calm?
“There’s times when you feel you can really push the group and there’s time when you let the group take control,” he said. “I think we could’ve pushed them more this game, knowing what we know now.
A loss here and there can be a good thing.
No team is going to go 34-0-0 during a Major League Soccer season. Let’s just get that out of the way now.
But after an undefeated preseason and 3-0-0 start to open the regular season, the Crew suddenly had more momentum than any other team in the league. Berhalter and his players spoke of learning through winning, a viewpoint the coach echoed yesterday when asked if he felt his team needed a loss to learn from.
“No, you never need a loss,” he said. “We always want to win. I honestly believe it’s better to learn from wins. I’m disappointed that we lost. Toronto played a great game and executed their game plan perfectly, but I’m still disappointed that we lost, no question.”
It’s a fair point. However, I would argue that a little humility at this point in the season wasn’t a bad thing for the Crew. You can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs, and in this case any thoughts of the team’s inherent superiority – publicly spoken or not – should be gone.
“It does put it in perspective that you’re not going to go undefeated,” Finlay said. “There you go. You’re going to lose games, but obviously we want to minimize that as much as we can. I don’t think it was a huge wake-up call.
“I think if we would’ve won the game and continued to win I think we would’ve been fine, but it also does put in perspective where we’re at and where we could still be.”