Josh Williams vs CHI
Alena Schuckmann / Columbus Crew SC

Always a staple, Crew SC's defense among League's best on the road

It’s difficult to score goals in Major League Soccer, let alone on the road.

When it comes to Columbus Crew SC’s backline, the unit – which has featured a consistent rotation of eight or nine players – continues to rank as one of the League’s best away from MAPFRE Stadium.

This regular season, Crew SC has conceded only 16 goals on the road, tying with Atlanta United for the second lowest number of away goals conceded behind the Seattle Sounders (15). Notably, Columbus’ next opponent – FC Dallas – has conceded 16 goals at home this season.

With an upcoming three-game, eight-day run starting Saturday, Sept. 15 at Dallas, Columbus’ continued strong defensive play comes to the forefront with seven regular-season matches remaining.

“I think it’s just continuing to focus on how we build pressure, how we can deny dangerous spaces — how we can close dangerous spaces — and moving as a unit,” said Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter on defensive keys versus Dallas. “I think if we do those things it will give us a good chance to be successful in the game.”

As a young club looking to secure a second-consecutive playoff berth, at this point, it’s an all-in mentality over the upcoming three-game stretch.

“Everyone’s ready,” said forward Patrick Mullins.

“I think we’re all going to have to pull our share in the next couple weeks. The whole group, we’ve been training hard and we are ready for these moments. Last week, we added in some time to make sure we got in our fitness levels and I think the team really pushed. I think that was all in the thinking of this week – to make sure everyone has their part to play and that they are ready.”

In total, Columbus has conceded only 34 goals in the 2018 regular season, holding the fifth-best mark overall and third best in the East while tallying five goals in the last three road contests.

As for Saturday’s opposition, at Toyota Stadium, Dallas has found the back of the net 30 times, tied for the fifth-best home mark in MLS, while its top three scorers – Roland Lamah, Maxi Urruti, and Michael Barrios – have combined for 23 goals overall this season.

“They have some speed up front so we have to be balanced well,” said defender Jonathan Mensah. “We have to attack, we have to be mindful of where their wingers and their strikers are so that when we attack, we the defenders will organize behind and pick them up.”

Starting Saturday, the next-man-up mentality ensues.

“I think the coach said it early on, we’re going to need everyone. So training-wise, we all contribute and improve. Whoever steps in is going to do the same job so we just have to be ready. Be ready so whenever you get the opportunity you go out there and help the team.”

Following Dallas, Crew SC continues on the road against the Portland Timbers on Wednesday, Sept. 19 before returning home to host the Colorado Rapids on Saturday, Sept. 22, as part of Hispanic Heritage Night.

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