It was in the scouting report.
New England is more athletic and physical across the board.
The expectation was that – in line with Columbus Crew SC’s first meeting against the Revolution on March 9 – the ensuing match will be less tactical and more disruptive; less of a soccer game and more of a fight.
And 90 minutes later, the Crew came out with their third straight home shutout.
“What I am pleased with is in the games where we played teams who were looking to disrupt us and use their physicality, and honestly they had more physicality than us, they’re bigger, they’re more athletic across the board, we didn’t let that get to us and I’m pleased with that,” said head coach Caleb Porter earlier this week.
Ranked second in Major League Soccer in fouls conceded, New England showed its physicality but received just as much as they put out, as Columbus maintained the edge in duels won (54 percent) while committing a game-high 16 fouls.
After spoiling New England's 12-match home opener unbeaten run on March 9, Porter and his staff expected to see a ramped-up Revs side, especially after they earned their first win of the season the week prior.
On the defensive end, particularly, it was a tough game for the whole backline, with the back four often dealing with a five-man offensive front, and for the wide-outs, the coaching staff respected the mentality the players showed in dealing with what the Revs threw at them – crosses, first and second balls, set pieces, and more.
“[We] looked like [we] were mentally and physically up for it and that’s not easy. Those things kind of just fly under the radar,” Porter said of the backline. “If you don’t go back and re-watch the game and see every cross that they give and every ball they dumped and every set piece they managed, then you probably forget how good those guys were on the day.”
Regarding the Crew's wide-outs, Waylon Francis tied for a game-highs in tackles (6) and interceptions (6) while Hector Jimenez totaled nine clearances, also a game-high, and challenged in five aerial duels. Additionally, Jimenez featured on the offensive end with a team-high two open-play crosses, including one to Gyasi Zardes as he steered an open header just off frame.
Amongst a few confrontations and four players receiving cautions, including Michael Mancienne who was forced off following two yellow cards, the Crew maintained composure in a disruptive match overall.
“That’s a part of winning games. You have to have a strong mentality in a game like this last game versus New England,” Porter said. “You have to be emotionally strong, physically strong. You have to be up for that fight. And then have to not get carried away with that fight and play football.”
Saturday's showcase was just a piece of a trend, however. Heading into Saturday’s road match against the Montreal Impact, the Crew carry one of the League’s top defensive ratings with four shutouts and an 82 percent save percentage, having faced an average of three shots on goal per match. Additionally, the Crew are unbeaten this season with Zack Steffen in goal, with only two goalkeepers posting more shutouts since the start of the 2017 season than Steffen.
In Stade Saputo, a setting that has not bode well for Columbus, it's another opportunity to showcase another aspect of the Club's identity as the Crew get set for their third road match of the season, with kickoff set for 1 p.m. ET.
Supporters can watch the match on SportsTime Ohio, stream on FOX Sports GO, or listen on www.ColumbusCrewSC.com (English & Spanish).