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To break down Inter Miami, Columbus Crew needs to see quicker ball-movement in attack

The Columbus Dispatch logo The Columbus Dispatch 10/16/2021 Jacob Myers, The Columbus Dispatch
Center back Josh Williams, right, says the key to success for the Crew is to " just play simple. ... Don't overcomplicate the game." © Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch Center back Josh Williams, right, says the key to success for the Crew is to " just play simple. ... Don't overcomplicate the game."

The obvious letdown for the Crew in their post-championship season has been the attack that was supposed to improve on last season’s standing as an above-average offense. 

Almost two weeks ago in a hugely important game at Philadelphia Union, the Crew were sloppy in possession and couldn’t connect passes in the final third in a 3-0 loss that has put their MLS playoff hopes in more jeopardy. 

But with four of the final six games at home and the Crew likely needing at least 15 of 18 available points to overcome a six-point difference between them and the final playoff spot, coach Caleb Porter and his staff have emphasized quicker play in the attack during training through the recent international break to try to spark the offense. 

"Philly, it seems like a month ago but it's a couple weeks ago,” Porter said. “That was definitely not a game where we were good with the ball, which meant we were not high enough (up the field), not able to counter-press enough and not able to create enough chances. But I will remind you we've been very good recently at home. ... Every game from here on out, our mindset is a must-win.” 

Gonzalo Higuain scored the winner for Miami against the Crew in September. © Jasen Vinlove/USA TODAY Sports Gonzalo Higuain scored the winner for Miami against the Crew in September.

The Crew (9-12-7, 34 points) play Inter Miami (9-14-5, 32 points) at 6 p.m. Saturday at Lower.com Field as the first of four must-win home games. Having beaten CF Montreal and winning Campeones Cup against Mexican club Cruz Azul before the loss to Philadelphia, the Crew have begun to establish an identity in their new stadium with a four-game home winning streak. 

But getting back to the intensity and controlling a match the way they did in the two games before Philadelphia, against Miami, will be the first obvious sign of whether or not the Crew have improved and look like a team capable of a late-season run to sneak into the playoffs. 


Video: Columbus Crew coach Caleb Porter on 4-0 win vs. Inter Miami (The Columbus Dispatch)

"I think it's just getting back to what made us successful,” center back Josh Williams said. “I think a lot of that is relying on each other, not trying to do things through one player or do something spectacular. Just play simple. ... Don't overcomplicate the game. If we do that, if we bring the type of intensity we brought to a Cruz Azul or a Montreal right from the first whistle … I think we can play with a lot of teams.” 

It was Williams in the last game at Inter Miami who gave away the lone goal in a 1-0 loss. Since then, the Crew are 2-1-1 and Miami has lost five in a row, scoring just one goal in those five games. 

Like last game, the Crew expect to have a solid defensive performance but are wary of being burned on the counter-attack in transition by forward Gonzalo Higuain, who scored the winner back in September in Fort Lauderdale. Higuain doesn’t move a lot off the ball, but he’s a guy defenders have to constantly be aware of. 

Since Miami shifted to a 3-5-2 formation in recent games, Porter said Miami’s defense has been much better and will challenge the Crew to break down a team that’s comfortable giving up a lot of possession and having eight defenders sit back defensively. 

"It's going to be important to be clean and clear and goal-dangerous when we have the ball,” Porter said. “We've got to be good with the ball, we can't give away easy transitions because Higuain is very dangerous and comes alive as soon as they win the ball.” 

jmyers@dispatch.com

@_jcmyers

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This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: To break down Inter Miami, Columbus Crew needs to see quicker ball-movement in attack

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