Statistics can be deceiving early in the season when an aberration can skew the numbers.
Such was the case when the Columbus Crew allowed four goals to New York after yielding half that amount in the first three games to send their average skyrocketing.
But with two games left a clearer picture of the strength and weaknesses have emerged and the figures show a team that is strong in the middle third of the match but struggles at the beginning and the end.
The Crew has outscored opponents by 10 (16-6) from minutes 31-60 but otherwise have given up a total of 10 more than they’ve scored in the half hour before and after that segment.
“That’s when our Gatorade shakes kick in, right about that time frame, then they go away and we need that extra boost,” goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum joked.
On a more serious note he said, “Sometimes we get off to slow starts and we concede some early goals. After we concede, we wake up. Maybe that’s part of the case.”
The Crew has scored nine goals by the 30th minute while allowing 12.
“Usually we take our time to get into the rhythm of the game,” midfielder Milovan Mirosevic said. “That’s something to improve on.”
The best portion is from the 31st minute to the break when the Crew’s 11 goals are tops in the MSL and the three conceded are the second-fewest to Seattle’s two.
For the first 15 minutes after halftime the Crew has allowed three goals – the lowest in the league – while scoring five times.
“We need to do that from the beginning. It would be better for us,” Mirosevic said.
Over the final 30 minutes the Crew has been outscored 19-15, including 12-9 past the 76th minute.
“That surprises me,” Mirosevic said.
In fact, it seems all the Crew (14-11-7) have been doing lately is securing points at the end. In their past nine games they’ve scored five winners and produced one equalizer from at 86th minute or beyond.
Yet, they’ve also conceded four times in the final 15 minutes during the span.
“There are times when we relax too much,” coach Robert Warzycha said. “That’s why teams are catching up with one or two breaks. That’s why we have to make sure we are consistent the entire game.”
The next opportunity to do so is Saturday at D.C. United as the Crew sits one point back of Houston for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.