Statistically, the Crew did well enough in their season opener against Toronto FC, earning a 2-0 shutout on March 27 to ease any first-game jitters for a team hungry to get back to the postseason.
The number of squandered opportunities in that match, however, left an indelible mark.
“We had a lot of chances the second half,” Guillermo Barros Schelotto said. “We played pretty good in the field, but we have to do better in the next situation.”
Schelotto and defender Andy Iro scored, but Steven Lenhart, Adam Moffat and Robbie Rogers were among the culprits who prevented the match from being a blowout.
“We created enough chances to score five or six goals,” midfielder Eddie Gaven said.
The Crew can take solace in that they performed slightly better than the past two seasons in putting away chances. Columbus scored on one-third of its six shots on goal, and converted 13 percent of the 15 total shots.
Last year, the Crew scored on 30 percent of the shots on goal (41 of 138) and 12 percent of the shots taken. The 50 goals Columbus had en route to the 2008 MLS Cup came off 31 percent of the 161 shots on target and 13 percent of 388 attempts.
Still, no one is satisfied.
“The past two weeks we’ve been trying to do better on the last pass,” Gaven said. “The last game we weren’t sharp in the passing. That was the main problem but I think we’ll do better this week.”
For his part, however, coach Robert Warzycha isn’t pressing the panic button just yet.
“That was the first game. I understand the players are a little bit rusty in front of the goal,” he said. “We had some really good chances. The chances were not only from the crosses but the run of play. That’s even better.”
“They need more games,” he added. “They have to be in-game situations. Playing here 11 v. 11, that helps, but a game situation is more pressure. How are you going to simulate that in practice? As the season goes on and we have more games they’ll get better.”
The Crew return from a bye week for Saturday’s match at FC Dallas and former Crew member Jeff Cunningham. He had 17 goals last season for FCD but none in 115 minutes against his former team.
“Jeff had an amazing season last year,” Crew midfielder Duncan Oughton said. “You can still see with that pace he has he’s dangerous with the ball.”
Cunningham presents a formidable challenge for a backline that will undergo changes from game one. Chad Marshall, the league Defender of the Year the past two seasons, missed the opener because of a hamstring strain but is ready just in time to replace Eric Brunner in the middle. Brunner suffered a concussion during a scrimmage against Marshall University last week.
Marshall might be paired with Iro, or Danny O’Rourke could move from left back into the central defense, opening a spot for Gino Padula. Frankie Hejduk is expected to start at right back after nursing an injured hamstring and missing the first game.