Nashville SC takes on Columbus Crew this evening. Read some of the highlights from out podcast interview with Crew TV Analyst and MLS Assist host Jordan Angeli here:
Wes Boling: How has Columbus been able to improve its results in recent weeks? Have there been major adjustments, or just more rest?
Jordan Angeli: “I think every year, we forget how difficult it is to 1) be a reigning champion, you have the biggest target on your back, and also 2) you go into preseason and it really sets you up into success early on, and then they were dealing with injuries. In preseason, Kevin Molino, Darlington Nagbe started preseason not being ready to play, and then right off the bat, it was Perry Kitchen out. All these depth players that you bring in to allow you to have success – in a tournament like CCL, where you know you’re going to be overloaded at the beginning of the season – those depth pieces (and I know Nagbe isn’t a depth piece, but he was in the injury list on my brain), those pieces aren’t allowing you to use and rotate the way that you would like to with the games coming this and fast right at the beginning.
“I think the Crew have played the same backline maybe in two games throughout the season – they’ve had seven different players. In the game against FC Cincinnati, the entire backline except for Jonathan Mensah was rotated at one point. These are connections that are important: to have the cohesion and the chemistry, and knowing how a player next to you likes to play. It was difficult for the Crew.
“As they came out of the international break in June, you’re seeing a team who feels like they’ve got some training under their belt, they’ve established a little bit more of that chemistry that they had as a unit, but also getting some players back from injury.”
Tim Sullivan: Columbus has consistently outperformed expected goals under Caleb Porter. Is that system? Is it the simple nature of having an elite finisher (Gyasi Zardes) on one end and an elite keeper (Eloy Room) on the other?
JA: “I think Gyasi Zardes probably has one of the best – if not the best – shots on-goal to goal percentage. He doesn’t take wild shots. The Crew are pretty stingy when it comes to how they are going to create an opportunity, can they figure out a way to utilize the players in attack to get the best chance on goal. They don’t have as many shots typically as the other team, but when they get in goal-scoring situations, it’s typically a better-looking shot opportunity, whatever it may be.
“And then I don’t know if you watched the game over the weekend, but Eloy Room is just ridiculous. Even though he’s not at the Gold Cup right now [Curaçao withdrew due to coronavirus protocols], he’s showing why he’s here, which was the Gold Cup a couple years ago, when he stood on his head. It was pretty cool to watch.”
WB: What should Caleb Porter’s gameplan be in order to beat this Nashville SC team?
JA: “Columbus is a possession-oriented team, but I do think some of our best moments against [New York] City over the weekend – though Nagbe scored off of a transition moment, and that’s one of my keys: give the ball to Darlington Nagbe – the possession, talking about those wingbacks, can you pull those wingbacks out a little bit to a holding midfielder who’s dragged outside for the Crew? Use possession to pull one of those players out, and then utulizie that space in=behind to stretch the back-three for Nashville defensively from side-to-side. From there, there’s going to be gaps, and utilizing the gaps between the lines.”
There’s much, much more to the interview with Jordan, including more about this game (and about Cincinnati at the weekend). Check it out, and also subscribe to the invaluable MLS Assist podcast, which Jordan hosts with Joe Lowery.