Columbus adjusts to take three points in Montreal – HUGE REPORT


The Columbus Crew returned to winning ways on Wednesday, traveling north to beat CF Montreal. The game started well for Columbus as Max Arfsten, hanging at the back post and scoring on a rebound that flew off the goalie, scored the first goal. The Black & Gold would seemingly double their lead with a thunderous shot from Christian Ramirez, but the goal would ultimately be ruled offside. Montreal equalized from the penalty spot before halftime after Patrick Schutle came off his line and caught the Montreal attacker without winning the ball. Although the first half looked shaky at times, the Crew responded in the second half with two goals from Diego Rossi and Marino Hinestroza to secure all three points for Columbus. This is the Black & Gold's first win in their last seven MLS games. Their last win came on March 16 against the New York Red Bulls.

The Crew adjusted their tactics based on their slightly altered lineup and game plan to counter Montreal's bold style. Let’s dive into these tactical decisions.

Set up in different formations in the first and second half

As Crew fans know, Columbus likes to change shape throughout the game. They have different formations for defense, building up the ball and attacking in the opponent's half.

On Wednesday, the Black & Gold decided to build out of defense in two different formations. In the first half, the team opted for possession and attack in a 2-3-5 formation.

Both Rudy Camacho and Yevhen Cheberko were the only two defenders in this formation. They switched from a three-back format to a two-back formation, with Steven Moreira moving into midfield alongside Darlington Nagbe and Aidan Morris.

The front five consisted of Yaw Yeboah on the left wing, Rossi, Ramirez and Alex Matan playing in the channels and Arfsten on the right wing. The three inside attackers were all interchangeable and had the freedom to run behind the defense or retreat when necessary to support possession.

This formation gave Columbus a numerical advantage in midfield while holding back two defenders to ensure defensive stability. However, there was a problem with this lineup that helped explain why the Black & Gold had periods in the first half where they looked lethargic.

As Moreira moved into midfield and both full-backs pushed high up, the space in midfield became tight. The Crew did not have a good special balance in the first half, as there were large gaps on both sides of the central defenders. This is the space that Montreal was able to exploit on the counterattack as they retained and attempted to retain possession.

The 2-3-5 worked in the first half with two goals from Columbus, one of which was allowed due to a narrow offside decision and the other disallowed. Despite the goal, the Black & Gold still looked like they had a hangover from the Cincinnati game, so there were more changes in the second half.

In the second half, the Crew shifted to a more balanced appearance with a balanced 4-1-4-1 in possession. The two central defenders remained in their places, with Moreira positioned as a right-back and Morris as a pivot/left-back.

Nagbe became the only no. 6 in midfield, while Rossi and Matan as duel no. 10s. Yeboah and Arfsten were the outside midfielders, with Ramirez at the top.

Since Wilfried Nancy became coach, we don't normally see Columbus playing in a four-man system, but it worked. The Black and Gold scored two goals and controlled the game more effectively than in the first half.

The reason for this control is the way the team has been able to distribute its players to utilize as much space on the field as possible. In the first half, the midfield was crowded and there was space far out that Columbus didn't take advantage of. In the second half, Moreira and Morris occupied that space, filling gaps in defense and giving the Black & Gold more attacking options.

This small formal change changed the game for the Crew and resulted in a big three points to get them back on track.

The positioning of Aidan Morris

Morris was the biggest catalyst for Columbus in this game. The way he was able to switch positions and help in defense and attack was phenomenal.

Morris started the first half in his usual midfield spot alongside Nagbe. However, with Moreira moving into midfield, Morris had more freedom to move left and link up with Yeboah.

As a result, he moved into attack much more often, almost like a third attacking midfielder alongside Rossi and Matan. However, the midfield became crowded in the first half, leading to periods of play where the team turned the ball over and allowed Montreal to retain possession.

In the second half, Morris' role changed and he became much more dynamic. Like a left-back, he began to take up most of the space vacated by Yeboah. He assumed this position while Columbus was deeper in their half, stringing together passes to get upfield.

As the Black & Gold pushed further into the attacking zone, Morris would shift back inside into the channel between Yeboah and Rossi, becoming an attacking reinforcement and additional option up front.

We saw this in real time at the Hinestroza goal, only it was on the other side. Morris came up and saw Rossi checking back to the ball. As the Uruguayan did so, Morris slid into the vacated space in the channel to receive the ball from Moreira. A quick pass back to Moreira and another pass to Hinestroza and it was 3-1 to the Crew.

It's these little things that make Morris and some of the players on the Black & Gold so great. They have a lot of guys who are adaptable and can play multiple positions in a game. Morris is one of those all-rounders, and it showed on Wednesday night in Montreal.