In line with the theme of progression that has followed this team since head coach Caleb Porter's arrival in Columbus, Saturday's 1-1 draw to the New York Red Bulls stood as a good representation of Columbus Crew SC's play thus far in 2019, but also as a reminder of the type of challenges Crew SC will face this season.
"[The Red Bulls] didn’t really break us down, but that’s the type of game it’s going to be when you play New York; it’s not easy," Porter said.
"Regardless of who is in there that style is difficult to deal with, especially for a team like us that wants the ball on the ground, and we want rhythm. We want to be able to pass and this is the type of game that we need to figure out, how to make the game on our terms and I thought in the second half we did but it wasn’t enough."
Taken aback by an early New York goal in the sixth minute, the Crew (0-0-1, 1 pt.) were hard-pressed to establish a sense of rhythm that eventually came to fruition in the latter 45 minutes.
"We didn’t get into a rhythm in that first half and they were able to play the game on their terms, disrupt us and make it the type of game they play, very combative and direct," Porter said. "I thought they executed well in that regard and we never, like I said, got into a rhythm."
The difference early on, according to Porter, came down to winning duels and the clean-up opportunities off of second balls.
"Credit to them, in that first half they disrupted us and took us off our game," Porter said. "It wasn’t anything they did that surprised us, it was just winning duels. In a game like this, it is such a simple thing, but it is not always an easy thing, it is just to win second balls and anticipate those duals in the center of the part and if we win them, then we get the ball down and we play and if they win it, now they come at us. I thought the first half it was a game of them coming at us by winning those duels. Second half, I thought it was a different story."
After Gaston Sauro's equalizer in the 41st minute, the Crew found themselves with the ball on the ground, controlling nearly 75 percent of the ball in the second half. The progression is possession was there, Porter said, and it showed in the quality of chances, but the difference came down to playing against a direct team in the early stages of the game versus playing against a team content with bunkering 10 men behind the ball in the match's latter stages.
"[The] second half was much better. We were able to get in a rhythm, we were able to keep the ball, switch play and we found some chances. I thought we had a good push at the end. The difference is in the second half, now they can buckle down and play for the point and that makes it difficult, you have to break down 10 guys," Porter said.
A sense of too-little, too-late combined with a systematic, physical opponent made it a tough task, as well as a disappointing result to not come out of MAPFRE Stadium with three points, Porter said, but looking into next week at New England, the positive lies in the progression through the first full 90 minutes of the regular season.
"In the end, I think we feel like it is two points dropped, for sure. Anytime at home when you don’t get three points, you’re gonna feel that way. Good news is, we had a better second half but we’re going to need to start the game and play the first half like we did the second."
The Black and Gold hit the road to take on the New England Revolution on Saturday, March 9 at 2 p.m. ET in Foxborough, Mass. Supporters can watch the match on SportsTime Ohio, or listen on 97.1 FM The Fan (English) or www.ColumbusCrewSC.com (Spanish).