OBETZ, Ohio – For much of the 2013 season, the flanks have been a mystery for the Columbus Crew. It was assumed that veteran Eddie Gaven would fill one of the wide spaces in his usual stalwart role for the club, but a torn ACL removed one of the team's most consistent options early in the season.
Since then, a laundry list of players have been used on the wing, including playing some out of their natural position, using strikers out wide, or giving younger players an opportunity. But since technical director Brian Bliss took over as interim head coach on Sept. 3, the team has found two consistent options on the outside with Bernardo Añor on the left and Dominic Oduro on the right.
“I think both of us kind of fit in the roles pretty well,” Añor told MLSsoccer.com after training Wednesday. “We can be isolated one-on-one with a defender and create a chance, be dangerous, and provide the team a good play. If either of us tuck into the middle, it's with the idea of being more creative, having more possession of the ball, and trying to find the tempo of the game.”
The license to roam the middle that Añor mentioned is one of the key attributes of each player's game. The Venezuelan said earlier in the season that he prefers to play in a central role where he can be involved in the play, so Bliss says he is given more freedom to make plays from the middle.
Meanwhile, with Oduro's history as a striker, the winger will often make a diagonal run to the inside and become a third forward.
The Ghanaian has scored a goal in each of the last three matches – adding MLS Player of the Week honors for his performance in Sunday's 4-2 defeat of FC Dallas – and said that his transition to the wing is going well.
“I'm not a natural winger, clearly. I prefer playing forward,” said Oduro. “But it's something I've got to do for the team. The coaches give me the confidence to come in sometimes and do what I do. I'm adjusting, but so far it's been good for me.”
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Bliss is aware that neither player is in his preferred role, but says that they are both handling the change like professionals.
“They're team players, and understand what we're trying to get done here,” he said. “They're helping the team, but they're also flourishing in those roles, so I think they're happy.”
While Oduro didn't want to give full credit to himself and Añor for the team's success, he made it very clear what he thought the pair were achieving.
“Just like a plane, if your wings are no good, you can't fly,” he laughed. “We're flying high right now.”