Less than two weeks into preseason and Columbus Crew SC Head Coach Caleb Porter thinks this group is already ahead on its preseason syllabus.
“I would say, based on experience, going through MLS preseasons and being with MLS clubs, in a lot of ways, we are further along than I’ve ever been with a team, and I think a big part of that is it’s a group with a lot of continuity,” Porter said in a conference call on Friday.
Porter, who was officially introduced as the eighth head coach in Club history less than a month ago, emphasized the connection the players have with one another, and how that’s permeated through their play on both sides of the ball.
“There’s an understanding, a baseline understanding of how to play in the attacking phase and the defending phase that’s been drilled in them, and that gives us a very strong foundation to work from,” Porter said. “The analogy I used is, with some teams early in the preseason, you’re teaching Algebra I. With this group, you can get to Trigonometry a little quicker.”
Much like any academic course, the first two weeks of preseason have revolved around building up a foundation and addressing areas of focus on a day-by-day basis.
“There’s been a really good progression,” Porter said. “I was telling the coaching staff, the progression we’ve gone through is very typical based on what I’ve seen when I go through this tactical periodization cycle that I take the teams through.”
Following the scrimmage against Vissel Kobe that left Porter and company looking for more possession and control, Porter emphasized aspects of chance creation ahead of the Club’s second scrimmage against Liga MX side Club Tijuana on Jan. 31, which Crew SC won 1-0.
“The next piece is, now can we get some more possession, control, and chance creation in the front half,” Porter said. “I saw that after one training session, I saw that show up in the Tijuana game and we created three to four times as many chances and there was much more control in the front half and better decision making, and that’s very typical in what I’ve seen.”
As far as being ahead of the preseason curve, Porter noted the defensive effort the Crew have put forth, totaling two shutouts in as many scrimmages.
“So when you look at the back four, the 10, because it’s 10 plus the goalkeeper that are defending, we are showing that really strong defensive foundation, and that’s why I think we are ahead of other teams I’ve been with,” Porter said. “I think we’re in a good spot, but we have to, like I said, I’m not satisfied, we have to keep pushing, and there’s a lot, lot, lot more to do. And more things we can improve in.”
Looking ahead to the Black & Gold’s scrimmage against LAFC, the focus will be on the final product, whether it be the decision-making, the feed, or the finish.
“And then the last piece is to create chances, so build from the back and get into the front half and make good decisions and move the opponent around to find opportunities to create, but then actually on the end of the creation we need to be more ruthless in finishing, more precise in that final piece, and that’s final balls, final crosses, bringing guys in, it’s the run, it’s the timing and it’s the actual finish,” Porter said.
“So for me, in reflecting on the last game, we should have scored three goals, but you’ll hear me all year, there’ll be games like that. That’s football. But we need to be just a little bit more clinical when we get into good spots to score and we’ll keep pushing that. But when I analyze a game, I’m happy when we create chances. Never satisfied we don’t score, but I know the goals will come if you’re creating chances, so moving into this next game, can we score a few more goals and get that final piece right?”
The Crew’s closed-door scrimmage against LAFC kicks off at 5 p.m. ET on Monday, Feb. 4 at Banc of California Stadium.