Of all the statistics that will be used to dissect why the Columbus Crew failed to make the 2012 MLS Cup Playoffs, Head Coach Robert Warzycha knows which one stands out for him.
“I was looking at the stats this morning,” he said recently to MLSsoccer.com. “We lost four games when we were leading first and three of them were at the end of the season – D.C., Chicago and New York.”
Indeed, the Crew’s 10-4-2 mark when scoring first was only 12th in the league. It became even more significant when they got on the board within the opening 15 minutes in their final three road matches and lost them all to finish one point behind Houston for the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
It was particularly galling to Warzycha because the emphasis in 2012 was to cut back on the early deficits that plagued the team the previous season: the Crew allowed the first goal 22 times in 2011 (4-13-5) compared to 16 this season (5-8-3).
“We talked about how we are going to start games and not give up goals in the first minute,” he said. “We did a pretty good job of that this year.”
The bigger problem was not closing out matches as the Crew was outscored 13-9 over the final 15 minutes in 2012.
For the season, the Crew (15-12-7) scored and conceded 44 goals.
“We were very erratic,” defender Sebastian Miranda said. “The first half of the season we didn’t score enough goals but they didn’t score too much on us and we’d win 1-0."
“The second half [of the season] we scored a lot and gave up a lot and we made a lot of mistakes. You can’t win if you always have to score three or four goals.”
There were other numbers of note for the year:
9 – Games unbeaten at home to end the season (7-0-2) since a loss to Sporting Kansas City on July 14.
9 – Goals by Jairo Arrieta and Eddie Gaven to lead the team. Andres Mendoza had a team-high 13 goals in 29 games in 2011 before being released. Arrieta got to his total in just 18 matches; Gaven set a career best playing in all 34 games.
8 – Goals in 18 games for Emilio Renteria in 2011. He had only three in 26 games (16 starts) this season and found himself on the bench after the arrivals of Arrieta in July and Federico Higuain in August.
8 – Shutouts for the Crew but just one in the final 16 games. “It definitely weighed on my mind,” goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum said. “We weren’t very tight in the back down the stretch. Although we were scoring goals we couldn’t get it done at both ends on the same day.”
1 – More goal scorer this season than in 2011 when 13 players found the back of the net. Also, 21 players had a goal or assist this year compared to 18 on the score sheet last season.