The Crew's performance down the stretch of the regular season gives Black & Gold fans a lot to look forward to with the way their club is developing. The transformation of the Crew was evident from start to finish, with Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter's playing style being rapidly imparted, directly leading to on-field success.
Most know that the foundation of that playing style is ball possession and precision passing. But just how successful was the Crew in that regard? Where did the Black & Gold rank in the League, and what was the improvement like from the season prior?
Berhalter's unit finished the season as the fourth-best possession side in MLS, coming in at 54.12%. The Black & Gold were just one of eight sides to hold the ball above the 50% threshold. Evident of the club's emphasis on ball movement, the Crew also finished with 22,379 touches in the 2014 regular season, a figure that placed them third in the League. The top five possession teams in MLS are below:
The Crew had a single-match possession high of 62.94%, achieved on April 5 versus Toronto FC. Its single-match best for touches also came in that match, with 793. That match narrowly edged out the victory in Seattle, which featured a possession rate of 62.74% and 760 total touches on the ball.
In 2013, the Black & Gold's possession rate was 49.11% (11th in MLS) and the club recorded 20,162 touches (also 11th). The 5.01% increase in possession rate was by far the League's biggest growth from 2013 to 2014, exceeding the 3.02% jump by the LA Galaxy. Similarly, the 2,217 additional touches the Crew notched from 2013 to 2014 was the largest increase in MLS.
Comparing passing data really shows where the Crew made its mark. The Black & Gold finished the 2014 MLS Regular Season as the League's most accurate passing side at 82.57%. The Crew also both completed and attempted the second-most passes in the League, so the high percentage is not merely a product of low volume. The top five passing accuracy sides are below:
|Club||Passing Accuracy||Successful Passes||Attempted Passes|
How does this compare to 2013? Again, quite favorably for the Crew. In 2013, the Black & Gold's passing accuracy was 75.72%, good for 15th in the League. That's a 6.85% increase from 2013 to 2014, again the League's biggest jump by a considerable margin, exceeding the 4.43% improvement Toronto FC displayed.
Let's go next-level for a moment. The most difficult place to pass is deep in the opponent's end. When the Crew progressed deep into enemy territory, it was just as ruthless in its passing efficiency. The Black & Gold passed to a 69.68% accuracy rate in the final third, trailing only the LA Galaxy (70.11%). In 2013, the Crew's percentage was 60.03%. That's a 9.65% increase, which was, once again, by far the largest jump in the League (the Union's 5.81% increase in final third accuracy was the runner-up).
Finally, what's the final building block of possession and passing? Creating chances, where the Black & Gold ranked third in MLS with 368 on the year.
Combining dominant ball possession with surgical passing is a great key for success, and that's a paradigm that the Crew strongly embraced this season. The numbers don't lie -- no one improved as much as the Black & Gold did in many of these relevant categories. It's a great reminder that something special is being built at One Black & Gold Boulevard.