Federico Higuain - 4.6.19 - New England

Balance of defensive effort, chance quality continues to play key role

In Columbus’ 1-0 win over New England last weekend, the defensive effort came to the forefront, and rightly so given it being the Club’s four shutout of the season, but the chance conversion of the Crew is what continues to rank high amongst Major League Soccer peers.

Against New England, Columbus saw three shots fall on target, one being a header from Jonathan Mensah that was cleared off the goal line while Josh Williams’ game-winning header was a set-piece conversion – the Club’s third this season which stands tied for the League-high.

Through six games, the Crew have totaled 35 shots (excluding blocks) and 18 shots on target, both among the lowest in MLS, but regarding goal production, the Black & Gold stand in the middle of the pack with seven tallies.

Just as the defensive organization has been key to the Club’s early-season success, the generating of quality opportunities – and capitalizing on them – has been a point of emphasis.

“We’re moving in this league in a direction where there’s better shape with the way the teams are playing, which means, it’s going to be more of a chess match, which means there’s going to be less chances,” said head coach Caleb Porter.

“[Ten] years ago, it was an open game, this League. It was you attack, we attack, and there’s chances everywhere. That’s not a high-level game. A high-level game is very tight. It’s very tight. And there’s going to be a few chances either way and it comes down to set pieces. It comes down to the quality and the four or five chances you get.”

The Crew’s conversion rate – goals divided by total shots – ranks in the top 10 at an even 20 percent while the team’s shooting accuracy percentage ranks fourth in the League at just over 51 percent. So, though the aggregates are not atop the list, when the chance comes, chances are it will be a quality opportunity.

Individually speaking, Gyasi Zardes leads the team with three goals on six total shots, while Pedro Santos comes in with one tally in two shots on target. Federico Higuain, whose delivered two assists from set pieces already this season, has created the third-most chances from set plays this season (6).

In the end, it’s a balance, and as Porter emphasized how he has never seen a good team that only focuses on the offensive side, he also mentioned that he expects as much killer instinct in the final third as he does concentration and cohesiveness in the defensive end.

“I’ve never seen a good team that’s not good defensively, especially championship teams, they’re always good defensively,” Porter said.

“You’re not out scoring teams every game - that’s unrealistic…And 1-0 is a great win. You don’t need 2, you don’t need 3. I still want that killer instinct. I still think we should’ve gotten the second goal…[but] it’s unrealistic to think we’re going to get 10 chances in a game.”

The Crew travel to take on the Montreal Impact on Saturday, April 13 at 1 p.m. ET at Stade Saputo in what will be Montreal’s 2019 home opener. Supporters can watch the match on SportsTime Ohio, stream on FOX Sports GO, or listen on www.ColumbusCrewSC.com (English & Spanish).

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