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Film Room: What Columbus will be looking to exploit against the Loons tomorrow night

Minnesota United has a challenge on their hands against red hot Columbus. But how will the Crew look to take down the Loons?

MLS: Minnesota United FC at Colorado Rapids Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the “film room” (it’s named this because as a coach I’m the least creative person in the world). Here’s a look at what Columbus Crew will be looking at from Minnesota United’s last game as they prepare to face the Loons tomorrow night.

Yeah, so Minnesota struggled with defending set pieces in the first half. Amarilla leaves a 2v1 opportunity at the front post, which luckily Ozzie adapted to and left his man as his runner made no run. If not for a good reaction save from Tyler Miller this could have easily been an early goal. Columbus will use this as one reference that MNUFC can struggle with focusing early at the start of games.

While I trust Adrian Heath knowing how to prepare for the weather and try and exploit the moments later in the half when the opponent tires and is less likely to use substitutes, the staff needs to make sure they have the players prepared for the 20 or so minutes before that.

A perfect example of this is the Kei Kamara goal below. Yes, arguably this should have been a foul on Ozzie (even if it’s soft) and VAR should have at least looked at it in more detail. However, it’s another example of being “switched off” in the wrong moments. This was a perfect counter attacking opportunity as both of MNUFC’s outside backs were starting to get higher and wider up the field to be options in possession (especially Gaspar). Losing the ball here was a death sentence and any competent team scores, this goal was completely on Minnesota not anticipating the counter.

Fantastic set piece design by the Loons, they found a place where they could exploit Colorado at the near post and it worked to perfection. The movement is so simple and that is why it worked so effectively

This series of pictures below is the moment where MNUFC gave up the best chance of the night and it is something that Columbus will score 80% of the time. The loons commit three players into a 7 yd x 7 yd space for one player facing up field. This was a disaster waiting to happen unless the Loons won the ball in this moment. In addition, Aja is left with two attackers in space where they could attack him and combine with each other.

What happens is worse, Aja steps too far and gets beat by the pass and this is the moment where Ozzie starts thinking “Oh shit...”

If the runner at the back post is more committed to making their run and anticipates this possible opportunity they pull Gaspar out earlier and dragged him to the back post. Luckily they don’t and MLS has very few elite attacking wingers to punish this mistake. If this mistake in pressing is anticipated there is also an opportunity for an early cross to the back post, and this becomes an even more likely goal scenario.

When this ball goes wide, Kei commits defenders to the front post and opens the slot pass back to Rubio, the trailing midfielders probably can’t get there in time to make a play on the ball. Everyone is thinking goal.

When this chance below is Zardes or Zelarayán this is going in, and when you consider that Nagbe will be involved in the link up play, these situations if they occur will be the downfall of the Loons. Columbus will create these opportunities and look to exploit Aja’s perceived aggressiveness into situations where he should let back and let the play develop more. This is Columbus’s DNA under Caleb Porter, and if MNUFC are going to win, these situations cannot happen.

Now for some positives, the Loons outside backs are starting to look like the ones from 2019 again with the way they attack vertically into the wide spaces. If this goal was Trent Alexander-Arnold, a lot more people would care, but instead it’s Minnesota’s version in Romain Métanire.

Honestly I should have used Eli’s tweet, because the Arial Camera picks it up perfectly from start to finish. Like it or not this is what Minnesota United’s identity on the attack is. Exploit wide areas and find dangerous service to the goal scorers. Doing the simple things right.

Organization at the start of the second half was abysmal, they are caught napping and when Kei prevents Aja from winning the ball Colorado gets a chance that they should have capitalized on. This was obviously something Fraser noticed during the first half and had his team adjust at halftime. It will be interesting to see if Columbus tries to attack this tendency, and whether Heath trusts Aja or gives Kallman his first minutes after his suspension. I don’t think Aja was drop worthy bad, but only Heath and company know the difference between the two back-up center backs.

If it weren’t for Boxall getting there just in time to limit the angle and take out the cut back to Kei along with Ozzie tracking the run, this would have been the equalizer. Honestly Rubio looked bad and should have had this chance too, but I guess welcome to MLS. Once again this opportunity is one that once again Zelarayán and Zardes will capitalize on.

First off, well done Jonathan Lewis.

I actually don’t have a problem with the marking system on the set piece itself. MNUFC corrected the problems at the near post earlier, and seemed to be running a triple team type of hybrid on Kei. In addition they have a +1 system at the near post.

Another concept I actually like, as without Ike you lose an elite one-on-one defender of set pieces. This type of system allows one of the players trying to slow the run of the attacker to protect the top of the box for the second ball. The problem is Ethan Finlay “switches off” and ball watches losing his angle on Lewis.

Momentary slip ups where players “switch off” are inevitable in a sport played by humans, but limiting these moments are what professionals strive for. If MNUFC are to beat one of the tournament favorites these mistakes have to be at a minimum. That being said the game tomorrow night is can’t miss.