Alex Crognale - 3.10.18 - MTL

On the preseason checklist, establishing continuity at center back

Expect to see a more consistent pairing in the back line in 2019.

It’s a task that’s easier said than done, given the five-man rotation Columbus Crew SC had last year at center back in addition to the signing of Homegrown player Aboubacar Keita.

As for the final two preseason matches, head coach Caleb Porter will continue trying different options but would like to establish more consistency than there’s been in years past.

“I’m looking for a good chemistry in the back four,” Porter said in a conference call on Tuesday afternoon. “I’m looking for a pairing in a central defender position where guys can develop a chemistry together, a continuity together, we know we have a lot of good options. But I’m looking for a stable back four, and I think in all honesty and reflection on the path, I think there was a little bit too much, for me, turnover in that position.”

Regarding his approach to continuity at center back, Porter referenced his strategy and previous success in Portland.

“I used the example when we won MLS Cup,” Porter said, “Ian Ridgewell and Nat Borchers played basically every single game all year and I thought that was a big reason why we were one of the best defensive teams in the League because they knew each other like the back of their hand.

“And I think that’s very important when you look around the world, there’s not a lot of changing and rotation in those positions other than in compacted windows, because you need that chemistry and continuity and understanding in that pairing and in the back four.”

For perspective, despite the regular rotation last year, the Crew stood as one of the League’s best defensive teams, with nearly a third of Columbus’ regular-season matches ending in a shutout, including six on the road.

Additionally, by the end of the regular season the Black & Gold allowed 29 goals on the road, the sixth-fewest League-wide, while its 72 shots on target faced on the road – an average of nearly four per match – marked the fewest in MLS.

In the case of tight turnarounds, expect some rotation, but otherwise, chemistry and continuity stand at the forefront for this Crew SC team.

“I think if you’re looking at a unit or you’re looking at a pairing, one of the most important pairings on the pitch to have continuity is your central defender positions. So, do I expect it to be the same center backs every single game, game-in, game-out? No. There’ll be some rotation, but will there be less, I would say probably yes.”

Porter said defender Josh Williams will feature for the Club for 30 minutes in today’s preseason match against the Charleston Battery as he progresses from a preseason injury, while Alex Crognale will play the following 60 minutes. Alongside those two will be Lalas Abubakar, who is expected to get the full 90 minutes, according to Porter.

The match against Charleston kicks off a 5 p.m. ET and will be available to live stream for free. The Crew return to Columbus next week prior to the home opener on Saturday, March 2 at MAPFRE Stadium, with kickoff slated for 4:30 p.m. ET.

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