OBETZ, Ohio – A few calls may have gone in favor of the Columbus Crew to prevent their goals against average from rising above one per match and goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum has bailed them out on numerous occasions, but the fact is the defense is holding steady through eight matches.
Saturday's 3-0 win against D.C. United was the second clean sheet of the season and kept the Crew at seven goals allowed (0.88).
"We'd like to have a couple of more shutouts," Gruenebaum told MLSsoccer.com on Tuesday. "Having said that, if we can be there at the end of the season with that we're a happy group of people who are in the playoffs, hopefully.
"We have the talent at the back and going forward to keep possession and just shut out teams," Gruenebaum added. "That's what we need to do. If we can get a zero on our end we'll let the other side [offense] take care of itself."
The match marked the second time this season that D.C. questioned one of their goals being nullified against the Crew, and Montreal Impact's Marco Di Vaio also had a goal taken off the board when he was ruled offside by a smidgen.
"The calls are going to even up," Crew coach Robert Warzycha said. He points to the 1-0 loss at the Chicago Fire on April 20 when the Crew thought it had taken the lead in the fourth minute only to see the offside flag come up on an Agustin Viana goal.
Eight minutes later Fire defender Wells Thompson crushed Viana on a tackle but was given only a yellow. The league reviewed the play afterward and decided that the challenge was reckless and suspended Thompson for one match.
"If they hadn't called a goal back against Chicago maybe it would be a different scenario," Warzycha said. "If Thompson got a red card instead of yellow that could be a difference."
Instead, the Fire were dominant and Gruenebaum finished with six saves just to keep the score close. He had the same number of stops vs. D.C. but the match had a different feel because the Crew (3-2-3) raced to a 3-0 halftime advantage.
"It was more noticeable in Chicago because we were taking pressure throughout the second half," Gruenebaum said. "It wasn't us doing a lot of attacking. It was glaringly obvious we were not the better team that day. Even as many saves as I had Saturday I thought the guys in front of me, especially Chad [Marshall], have been blocking a lot of shots. That shouldn't go unnoticed."
Warzycha also said the D.C. game had a different tone, saying, "This time we defended with confidence."
The next challenge comes Saturday when the New York Red Bulls return to Crew Stadium for the first time since the Red Bulls 4-1 win 13 months ago.