COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Crew looked fluid, lively and inventive on the offensive side of the ball against D.C. United on Saturday. It was a sharp contract to a sluggish effort in their previous match – a 2-0 loss to Sporting Kansas City on July 14.
“We felt like we had possession [vs. Sporting] but we weren’t causing anyone any problems,” midfielder Chris Birchall said. “We could have played for hours not scoring.”
Using three offensive-minded midfielders underneath newcomer Jairo Arrieta (above left), the Crew energized their fans by pressuring United from the onset. Afterward, there was a sense in the Crew locker room that recent struggles might be over. However, there is a caveat.
Despite the renewed emphasis on offense, the Crew (7-7-4) managed to only tally once – the eventual game-winner from Birchall – to maintain their season mark of one goal per game. In other words, where it really matters – on the scoreboard – nothing really changed. The Crew still have trouble making the final pass and their shot selection is questionable.
HIGHLIGHTS: CLB 1, DC 0
There is hope, though, that two additions to Saturday’s lineup could make an impact. Midfielder Dilly Duka made just his fourth start of a season riddled by injuries but was arguably the best player on the field.
“He’s fun to watch,” goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum said. “He brings an element to the team I felt was lacking, a little creativity, a little bit of deception.”
Arrieta, the other addition, started his second straight match since joining the team and set up Birchall’s goal with a pinpoint pass into space.
Now that the Crew (7-7-4) have their creativity issue solved, the dilemma for head coach Robert Warzycha is whether to tinker with the chemistry for Saturday’s match at Sporting Kansas City.
Forward Emilio Rentería returns from a one-game suspension, but Arrieta’s play may keep him on the bench. Milovan Mirosevic (adductor strain) might be available, although it’s hard to see him displacing Duka, Eddie Gaven or Justin Meram in the midfield at the moment.
Defender Josh Williams completed a hat trick of sorts.
He was the left back vs. D.C. United, but in the previous two matches started at center and right back, respectively. Williams’ aerial play has made him a threat on set pieces and twice he’s had goals nullified by controversial calls.
“Seems like every time I get a head on it something bad happens,” he said.
While pursuing a first career goal, he’s also seen his bicycle kick hit the crossbar, had his header denied point-blank by Portland goalkeeper Tony Perkins and had a shot cleared off the goal line by Timbers’ midfielder Diego Chara.
Odds are it will come sooner than later as Williams continues to contribute on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball.