Crew Back On Track

Black and gold find a lot of success against the Chicago Fire, which has changed their season
by Al DiFranco   |   Tuesday, May 27, 2014

John Hefti Photography - Columbus Crew, Labor Strike, MLS, SoccerNewsday

The Columbus Crew ended its 8-match winless streak with a 2-0 victory over one of its chief rivals, the Chicago Fire. First half goals from Ethan Finlay and Jairo Arrieta, both off assists from Federico Higuain, were the difference.

As May winds down, let’s take a look at three keys for the Crew:

Emergence of Ethan Finlay

While outside wing seemed to be an area of depth coming into the season for the Crew (Dominic Oduro, Bernardo Anor, Justin Meram, and Hector Jimenez all can play there), Finlay was the first one to score in 2 consecutive matches. For a team desperately looking for goal scoring ability, the 23-year-old attacking midfielder may have played himself into the regular Starting XI.

Head coach Gregg Berhalter has an interesting dilemma with whom to start on the wings moving forward, but Finlay has to be given strong consideration. With Federico Higuain out for the next match due to yellow card accumulation, I hope Berhalter puts Finlay and Anor out on the wings with Oduro playing Higuain’s normal “No. 10” position on the field.

Jimenez as RB Option

As mentioned earlier, Hector Jimenez can play outside wing. On a number of occasions this season, Jimenez has been among the most productive and active Crew players on the pitch. Saturday evening, Jimenez put in a very solid 90 minutes at right back.

Josh Williams has had an inconsistent run at rightback for the Crew so far this season, so Jimenez may see more minutes at RB. At the very least, he has proved he can be a reliable and flexible option for Gregg Berhalter to deploy at multiple positions.

Playoff chase is wide open

Once again, the Eastern Conference playoff chase is wide open. The Crew currently sit in fifth place in the East  with 16 points (4 wins, 4 draws, 4 losses). New England leads the East with 23 points, followed by Sporting KC and DC United (both with 18 points) and Houston (17 points).

The next 6 matches comprise a critical part of the season for the Crew, with four on the road. This weekend’s tilt at Toronto FC will be a huge challenge, with Higuain missing the match. Toronto is seventh in the East at 13 points, but the northern rivals have played three less matches than the Crew.

Following the match against Toronto, Columbus has a home match against Real Salt Lake, then are at DC United, home vs. FC Dallas, at Colorado, then at New York.

When this stretch is over, the heat of the summer will have hit Central Ohio, and we will have a much better understanding of the Columbus Crew’s playoff chances.

NEXT UP: May 31 – Columbus Crew vs. Toronto FC, BMO Field, Toronto, Canada, 5 p.m. EST, TWC SportsChannel and MLS Live.

Al DIFRANCO

Nationality:
USA
College:
Ohio State
Club Domestic:
Columbus Crew
Club Foreign:
AC Milan, Everton
Passionate fan of the USMNT, Al is a member of the Cleveland Chapter of the American Outlaws. He also loves to follow and discuss Premier League and Serie A. Named his daughter Mia after a certain soccer legend.
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