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Drilling down on: at Columbus 4, New England 3

Toronto FC v Columbus Crew

COLUMBUS, OH - AUGUST 22: Federico Higuain #33 of the Columbus Crew gives the thumbs up after he slid in to the back boards chasing down a loose ball in the first half against Toronto FC on August 22, 2012 at Crew Stadium in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

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Man of the Match: Now this is what a Designated Player in MLS should do. On a night when his team’s defense was seriously stinking up the joint, Federico Higuain rescued his team from an early 2-0 deficit with a pair of sublime free kicks. Sniff, sniff. Now, is that MLS Player of the Week I smell?

Packaged for take away:

  • On any other night, two goals from Jairo Arrieta might have been Man of the Match stuff. Both finishes past Revolution ‘keeper Matt Reis were quality strikes, one with vicious power, one with perfect placement.
  • Something was wrong with Columbus from the start here. The attack lacked some direction and the defense was just terrible. Most likely, the physical tax of a heavy schedule was just too great. The Crew played Sunday, traveled Monday, played Wednesday and then again Saturday, its third match in seven days.
  • One issue, perhaps was Robert Warzycha’s switch from the 4-2-3-1 that has worked so well lately to a slightly more plain Jane and conservative 4-4-2. Whereas Higuain had been working as the pivot ahead of two holding midfielders and behind Arrieta, he was aligned alongside Arrieta as a second forward. Danny O’Rourke and Milovan Mirosevic were generally too flat in the arrangement, which limited the Crew’s ability to find Higuain.
  • Clearly, it didn’t limit the man’s free kick ability.
  • Carlos Mendes, starting alongside Chad Marshall in Columbus’ central defense, was fouling too much early, walking a fine line between aggressive defending and cautionable behavior. It didn’t matter after about 40 minutes; Mendes was cramping and needed to be removed.
  • Benny Feilhaber was doing wonderful work early to pick apart that disheveled Crew back line.
  • Ryan Guy missed a big opportunity by going wide on a promising, early header. He atoned and then some by taking aggressive action 15 minutes in, scoring on a deflected shot from outside the 18. Still, the visitors’ early wastefulness was harmful in the end.
  • The back line coordination look poor for Columbus early, with several yards sometimes separating the furthest man forward from the last man back. They got away with it a couple of times but paid dearly when left back Josh Williams kept Jerry Bengtson onside. The Revs’ forward got around Andy Gruenebaum, who was rash in coming 25 yards out of goal, then twisted athletically to provide his team with a two-goal first half margin.
  • Let’s see. Wide open match. Your team’s defense stinks. Yeah, not the best time for a young goalkeeper to get his first MLS minutes. But the Crew’s Matt Lampson was forced into it, entering at halftime for the injured Andy Gruenebaum.
  • Lee Nguyen’s second half introduction gave Columbus something more dynamic to deal with. And it enlivened New England’s attack; Feilhaber had gone a little stale. His late PK was composed and precise, too.
  • Attempting to protect that 3-2 margin, Warzycha removed Higuain for the far more defensive minded Tony Tchani in the 72nd minute.
  • Julius James has always been overly reliant on his physical ability, and on being physical. Providing the visitors with the opportunity to equalize late with an arm around Diego Fagundez? That’s what you get with James.