3.16.19 Artur Tackle

Crew focus on team defense in middle block

Columbus Crew SC's defensive play has created challenges for the Club's opponents as the team has not conceded a goal in 264 consecutive minutes of play, earning the Club two shutouts. The Black & Gold are currently second in the league for goals conceded, with only one goal allowed in its first three matches. 

“I think we are working very well as a team,” said defender Gaston Sauro, “as a unit in the [back line], and I think we have to keep working on that, we have to keep doing that because [shutting out opponents] is important in giving confidence to the rest of the team. I think we are doing a good job.” 

While the back line has been there to keep the ball out of the net, head coach Caleb Porter wants to emphasize that defending is more than just earning shutouts. 

“The biggest thing I think is that you want a 90-minute mentality of not letting the opponent get chances,” he said. “I have had teams that have had performances where we got a clean sheet, but we gave them a million chances. That’s not good enough for me.”

The Black & Gold have only allowed nine shots on goal this season, placing them fourth in the League in that category. In their match last week against FC Dallas, Crew SC only allowed six shots with two on target, but the defensive effort of the Crew is not limited to the backline of the team. The Club prides itself on defending from all lines on the field.

“We are defending from the front,” Porter said on last match’s defensive efforts. “Last game we pressed very high. We didn’t press high off in every moment, but we started in that middle block. And we released high after they played negative and we disrupted Dallas quite a bit. They had a tough time breaking us down. When they kept the ball, they were in spots that weren’t dangerous. When they went to play negative, we stepped up and squeezed them and created turnovers.”

This idea of team defense is more than just an idea talked about in the locker room. The Club leader for tackles won is midfielder Robinho with six successful tackles, followed by midfielder Artur and defender Waylon Francis tied at five. For possessions won, midfielder Wil Trapp (29) leads the way, followed by defender Harrison Afful (27). By emphasizing defending in the middle block, the team hopes to generate more pressing attacks on their opponents.

“We want the middle block to become a high press or a counter attack,” Porter continued. “I think right now when we are in that middle block, we are one of the most difficult teams to deal with because it’s an aggressive defending approach. It’s not a reactionary or a back-foot approach, it’s a front-foot, waiting to pounce and jump the opponent to play the transition and/or press higher up the pitch to create turnovers.”

The Black & Gold (2-0-1, 7 pts.) will take on the Philadelphia Union (0-2-1, 1 pt.) on Saturday, March 23. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, March 23 at Talen Energy Stadium. The match will be broadcast on FOX Sports Ohio and 97.1 FM The Fan. Followers can also tune into the live Spanish audio stream at www.ColumbusCrewSC.com.

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