Earlier this week, Columbus Crew SC Head Coach Caleb Porter emphasized how last Saturday’s match was not indicative of his side’s identity, and how tomorrow’s home match against Atlanta is an opportunity to regroup and once again put on display how this team is expected to perform.
“We are looking forward to making a statement in this next game about what kind of team we are and getting back to doing the things that we are good at doing because that’s really key,” Porter said.
Key to that identity is being strong on the ball, an aspect that got away from the Crew (2-1-1, 7 pts.) last weekend.
“We’re not a low block counter-attacking team,” said Porter on the team’s possession in the first half of their match against Philadelphia. “We are not built for that. That wasn’t the plan going into the game, but we ended up being that because we couldn’t keep the ball.
“When you don’t keep the ball, you get too deep, you can’t get up the field, and that was the cycle of play we were in that first half…It’s not our style, and honestly, we haven’t played in other games that way. When I reflected on it, it’s about keeping the ball better so we can get up the pitch and get more control in the front half.”
Through the first three matches, the Crew averaged over five chances created per game, but succumbed to a 7-1 disadvantage last week in Chesterton, Pa. Initially looking to attack wide, the Black & Gold found little space in the flanks against a 4-3-2-1 and experienced trouble maintaining possession, and with that, the defensive shape became less compact and more vulnerable.
“I believe that it is very difficult to be a compact team when you lose the ball too easy,” said midfielder Federico Higuain. “I think it is a very simple concept of football, you have to volley the ball much more. From preseason, we’ve worked on that. But we know we have to improve that phase of the game because that will give us the opportunity to be more short as a team, to be higher on the field. And to be closer to the opponent goal to have the chance to score, to create chances to score.”
As for the opponent, Atlanta (0-1-2, 2 pts.) enters Saturday’s game without midfielder and Designated Player Pity Martinez and, according to head coach Frank de Boer, will look to emphasize creating direct chances over maintaining a majority of possession. Meanwhile, the Black & Gold will look to bounce back from what Porter described as an outlier result and focus on what the Club does best.
“We are a good passing team,” Porter continued. “We are a possession team. We are built that way. We are only good if we have the ball.”
The Black & Gold are back at MAPFRE Stadium on Saturday, March 30, when they host defending MLS Cup Champions Atlanta United at 7:30 p.m. ET. Supporters can watch the match on SportsTime Ohio, stream on the FOX Sports GO app, or listen to the English audio on 97.1 FM The Fan or the Spanish Audio on ColumbusCrewSC.com.