“Get more goals and let in less goals.”
A simple enough equation according to Columbus Crew SC goalkeeper Zack Steffen.
Of course, easier said than done, but so far in 2018, and even reaching back to 2017, Steffen’s goalkeeping numbers have continued to reach new personal heights alongside a Black & Gold defensive effort that, according to the numbers, takes it to another level on the road.
Among ‘keepers who have totaled at least 20 combined road appearances in the last two seasons, Steffen ranks tied for first in Major League Soccer in total clean-sheets (9).
This year alone, Steffen’s totaled six road shutouts, which leads the League and stands double of his regular-season total last year.
Overall, the Crew SC netminder and recent U.S. Men’s National Team call-up is one shutout – home or away – from attaining a new single-season high with six matches left in the regular season. Additionally, of MLS ‘keepers who have made at least 40 combined regular-season appearances over the last two seasons, Steffen ranks fourth among his peers in total shutouts with 18.
As the last man back, Steffen’s numbers add considerable weight for a team’s defensive ranking, but Columbus' total defensive package starts at the top, from the forwards down through the backline.
Crew SC’s offense, in a way, has stood as a two-edged sword for an opponent, with Columbus’ patience in the build-up and focus on possession leading to the fourth-fewest giveaways in the League. Of Columbus’ 34 goals allowed, 28 have come from inside the box, marking the third-fewest allowed in MLS.
In addition to a top-six ranking in possession percentage (52.36), defensive efficiency has been a key component as well. Columbus ranks three one-hundredths of a percentage point behind Toronto FC for first in MLS in tackle success (70.68 percent) in addition to tying for the fourth-fewest goals allowed in the League overall.
As a whole, Crew SC’s unwavering press, which was on full display in the first half against Dallas, has continued to be a hallmark throughout the road schedule. Heading into Wednesday's match at Portland, Crew SC leads the League in road goals conceded (16) and total shots allowed on the road (48), a mark 16 ahead of the second-place team.
So whether it’s through a compact defensive effort, or Crew SC’s offensive modus operandi, big chances come few and far between for those on the other side of the Black & Gold, starting with the front forwards and ending with Steffen between the pipes.
Columbus returns to action on Wednesday, Sept. 19 at the Portland Timbers. Kickoff is scheduled for 10:30 p.m. ET at Providence Park.