One of the glaring stats new Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter noticed upon taking over the Crew in early November was the lack of offensive production from the team's outside backs during the 2013 season. Together Josh Williams, Tyson Wahl, Chad Barson and Agustín Viana combined for just three goals and two assists last season.
Williams scored all three goals from set pieces within the first two months of the season, while Wahl contributed a free-kick assist and Barson provided the only assist from open play among the quartet. In total, the Black & Gold scored just one goal from a cross in 2013.
The recent addition of Costa Rican leftback Waylon Francis should help cure the Crew's attacking woes from the back.
"[Francis] is going to add to the offensive side of the game, there's no question," Berhalter said. "He has the conditioning to get up and down the field, so we're going to rely on that. Between Chad Barson and Josh Williams on the right as well, we expect them to contribute more [to the attack] next year. Maybe it's just positioning them a little bit differently so they can get forward. Viana as well at left back, maybe positioning him a little higher up the field to add to the attack more."
Francis' speed up the left flank and ability to improvise will be a key asset for the Crew in 2014. The Costa Rican has been known to be willing to shoot at goal from distance as well.
"His athleticism and conditioning, he can get up and down the field very easily," Berhalter said of Francis. "He has an unpredictability. He can shoot from outside, he can cross the ball. He's obviously left-footed, those are all good qualities."
While there is always an adjustment period for international players coming to MLS, Berhalter believes Francis will be a key contributor in 2014.
"Some of the positioning defensively, he'll have to get used to that a little," the Sporting Director and Head Coach explained. "Maybe some of the one-v-one duels as well. Hopefully he'll adapt quickly, but in the same sense, we're going to be patient with him.
"We realize that most foreign-born players take a little bit of time to get used to MLS, so we'll be patient with him."