Farsi or Gressel: Who starts against Orlando City?

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

After a surprise starter turned in a solid performance in the deciding match of the first-round playoff series against Atlanta United, Wilfried Nancy has a decision to make. Mo Farsi or Julian Gressel? Who starts against Orlando City in the conference semifinals?

The Case for Gressel

If there is one area where Gressel has a decided edge over Farsi, it is playoff experience. He’s appeared in ten career playoff games, including the 2018 MLS Cup final for Atlanta. Gressel has two career postseason goals.

In a recent article in The Athletic, it is pointed out Gressel is one of the league’s best without the ball. Advanced stats show he is very adept at creating space behind the defense from his wingback position. A deep dive into how it’s all broken down isn’t necessary. Just know that when you combine all of this with his skill at crosses, Gressel is an important part of the Crew attack.

The Case for Farsi

Farsi makes up for a lack of playoff experience with his knowledge of Nancy’s system. While Gressel seemed be chasing the Atlanta attack far too often in Match 2 of their series, Farsi looked very comfortable in working with Steven Moreira in the Crew defense in their next meeting. The two combined to frustrate Atlanta’s outstanding playmaker, Thiago Almada, to the point where he had to drift to the other side of the field in search of more space. Farsi also possesses the type of speed that allows him to get back quickly during a counterattack.

The Decision?

While Gressel may have struggled on defense in the Crew’s Match 2 loss to Atlanta, Orlando City is a different type of club. While they are aggressive, they are not a team looking to attack constantly. But defense wins championships and although Gressel scored in their meeting in September, he was also beaten on Orlando’s first goal.  If I were making the choice, I’d go with Farsi to start the conference semifinal. To me, his understanding of Nancy’s system is vital right now.

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