Now there its clear that Columbus Crew aren’t in the best of form as they failed to beat New England, even though, they have won the last four games at home against them. However, Columbus controlled the game and played better, but made some costly mistakes.
The most important aspect of the game was the pressing and also the build-up. As one team made a stunning performance in these elements of the game, whereas the other struggled.
The home side chose to form a 4-4-2 against the ball and keep their forwards (Zardes and Higuain) in close distance. They stayed in the centre to prevent the progression or circulation in that area. Thanks to their great transitions and cover ability the guests were struggling to find space. This also affected the New England attacks.
In some cases, they could manage to counter attack, but mostly Crew could handle the opponent’s attempts. However, there were a few situations where Brad Friedel’s New England (Playing in white) could find the way. For example:
In this situation, New England played a layoff effectively. Fagundez dropping to give an option to Farrel. After the pass, the fullback run towards the goal and gets the ball back. In general, layoffs is a quite good tool to get through the opponent’s defence if it plays effectively. It needs to be executed in diagonally due to the fact that if it makes vertically the defending team can easily relocate the pressure.
On the other hand, the home side did not have issues during their build-up play. With dynamic movements, quick one-twos or other combinations they could negate the opponent’s pressing. Otherwise, it’s a common way to use dynamic movements against man-oriented pressing or defence.
As you can see below New England use man-marking to make time hard for Crew, in return they could not close down the passing lanes. You can notice that Artur got tighter marking from Zahibo than the others. This happened frequently during the match, which reduced the passes going into him.
In other occasions, New England failed to put enough pressure on the opponent’s ball-carrier. With Higuain and winger, Pedro Santos, dropping deep in order to help the build up. This meant they could easily take advantage of the open passing lanes.
But sometimes they simply did not prepare enough to press effectively. Which was a huge mistake against an opponent whose main attack scheme builds on counter attacks. However, in this clash, the Crew’s plan was to get behind the opponent defence at the wings. They use long balls or quick combinations to get through the guests’ lines. There was a common pattern to pass the ball in the left side or left half space and then use long balls towards Zardes or Higuain. As you see below:
The fullback, Valenzuela had a big role in other situations. Due to the fact that New England had to defend in a narrow shape because of the Crew front line. They left space on the left side, so the home side often targeted Valenzuela at the left flank. Like in this example.
As I said, there was a space on the left wing, because the opponent’s fullback had to move infield to mark Pedro Santos. Therefore, Valenzuela could penetrate that space. This pattern repeated for the opening goal.
Bad positioning from New England. The whole defence is moved to the left side and the bad communication led to the goal. However, after a few chances New England started to pay attention to Valenzuela and the left flank, therefore the home side had to switch to the other side to attack.
Despite Gregg Berhalter’s men controlling the game and played better they couldn’t win the game. The two mistakes had a huge price. The first goal from New England came from a counter attack. They stole the ball around the half way circle and penetrated Valenzuela’s space on the wing. Due to the fact that Valenzuela was transitioning to attack, thus there was a space behind him. In the second goal home side did not concentrate enough, therefore the guests could press them effectively as you can see below.
In the second half, Crew switched formation to 3-4-2-1/3-1-4-2. Valenzuela moved forward to a higher position when they had the ball, and dropping back to the defensive line when defending. So, they tried to win the match with big efforts and threatened with dangerous counter attacks. Although they had several scoring chances, they could not score again. At the latter stage of the game, they mostly used long balls to targeting the 2-3 team-mates around the penalty box. However, in the last seconds of the stoppage time, they were really close to the winning score but only hit the post which saw the game finish 2-2.