It’s a simple philosophy that’s not always easy to execute: No goals allowed on the road equals at least a point.
The Crew demonstrated their willingness to do the necessary grunt work on Saturday at New England to forge a 0-0 tie to extend their unbeaten streak to six games, going 3-0-3 in that span.
More impressively, they have conceded just one goal in the past four road games while collecting a win at Seattle and three draws.
“That’s the recipe for success,” goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum told MLSsoccer.com following his six-save performance vs. the Revolution. “It’s a little bit of luck, hard work and battling for each other. We’ve been able to get a few goals on the road and that helps open teams up a little bit. If we can stay compact defensively, that makes the game a little bit easier for us.”
The Crew are 2-2-3 in road matches because they have scored just four goals – 13th in MLS. But their four goals against (0.57 average) away from Crew Stadium are far and away best in the league, with Sporting KC and RSL (1.00 goals against per 90 minutes) joint second in the distance.
“They’re a good team defensively,” New England midfielder Benny Feilhaber said of Columbus to the Boston Globe. “I think they might be even better away from home than at home, because they play perfect away football where they work hard defensively and they counter.’’
Crew coach Robert Warzycha said his team plays defense with confidence but that they were not playing for a draw against the Revolution.
“The best thing in the world sometimes is defending and getting the points,” he said. “But we can’t just defend. They were playing long balls and putting some balls in and we were very confident we could attack them.”
That the Crew (5-4-3) didn’t score is not surprising, because a lack of finishing has led to them getting blanked five times. That's the same number of shutouts Gruenebaum has in replacing the injured William Hesmer for the entire season.
Gruenebaum leads the league with 57 saves; is third in save percentage (80.3) and fifth with a 1.00 goals-against average.
“Without a doubt, he should be in the All-Star Game,” Crew defender Eric Gehrig said.
The numbers – both in the points column and the boxscore – seem to back that assertion up.
Gehrig subbed for injured centerback Carlos Mendes (foot) at halftime Saturday and, in the words of Gruenebaum, “Was a monster. On a few different occasions he got his head on a ball that had a goal written all over it.”
By the numbers
The last time the Crew went at least four road games without a loss was the first five away matches in 2010 (2-0-3). Columbus are 4-0-3 in Gillette Stadium since 2007.