Entering Wednesday afternoon's match against the Philadelphia Union, the Crew had scored just one goal from the run of play in its four previous preseason matches in 2013.
That all changed pretty quickly as the Black & Gold found the back of the net four times in the span of an hour to down the Philadelphia Union 4-0 at Disney's Wide World of Sports in Orlando, Fla. Rookie Ryan Finley kickstarted Columbus' scoring in the 28th minute, while Ethan Finlay followed suit twice and assisted on Aaron Schoenfeld's header for the Crew's fourth tally of the afternoon.
With a starting lineup of players who have typically been coming off the bench thus far in the 2013 preseason, the Crew showed it may have one of the deepest teams in MLS on Wednesday.
"We didn't skip a beat today, if you want to call us the second team," Finlay said. "I think the first unit came in and they played well too. We're trying to push those guys to make our team better. Obviously, we're trying to play for positions on the first team and make Robert [Warzycha]'s job that much tougher on March 2."
Most of the players that started Wednesday's match are holdovers from the Crew's back-to-back MLS Reserve League titles. Finlay hopes that experience leads to First Team success in 2013.
"I think we'll have another good team, another deep team this year," the second-year winger said. "Because of that, I think we can make a run to MLS Cup and also in the [Lamar Hunt] U.S. Open Cup."
While the Crew's four-goal explosion was something new, Columbus recorded its third shutout of the preseason. In five matches, the Black & Gold have outscored opponents eight to three. The Crew's success in front of net starts with the midfield, according to Head Coach Robert Warzycha.
"When you have the ball in possession, the [opposition] can't score goals," the Head Coach explained. "We're keeping the ball and we're creating chances. That doesn't mean we don't have to work on some things a little bit more. I think we have a lot of room for improvement and hopefully we can get better."
On Wednesday, the forward play of Finley, Schoenfeld and trialist Konrad Warzycha combined with the experience of Danny O'Rourke and Tony Tchani in central midfield that led to the Crew's dominating possession against the Union.
"I think it starts with some of our forwards like Aaron Schoenfeld and Ryan [Finley] directing the play today when we were defending," Finlay said. "As a unit we move well together and from there, we've been picking a lot of balls off in the midfield. We've got guys like Danny [O'Rourke], Tony [Tchani] and Konrad [Warzycha] who are picking balls off and the we're keeping good possession."
"Valuing the ball is important," he continued. "I think a lot of times last year, we didn't do that. I think if we keep getting into the habit of valuing the ball and taking advantage of our opportunities, we'll be just fine."
CONFIDENCE RIDING HIGH
Wednesday's win moves the Crew to 4-1-0 in the 2013 preseason. With at least two games remaining at the Disney Pro Soccer Classic in Orlando and the Kirk Urso Memorial Match in Greensboro, NC on February 24, the Black & Gold has plenty of room to build on their confidence ahead of the regular season opener against Chivas USA in Carson, Calif. on March 2.
"I don't think there is any overconfidence yet," Finlay said. "I think we know there is still a lot of work to do, but I think also that we're getting very comfortable with each other. I think the new guys are getting comfortable with some of the veterans as well as the coaching staff, which is good to see."
For Warzycha, confidence is one thing, but soccer is all about attitude and approach.
"I think our attitude has to be right," the Head Coach said. "You can always have confidence, but if you go into the game with the right attitude, then you'll probably have success."