Despite only coming away with one point in Saturday’s match against New York City FC, one of the main takeaways Columbus Crew SC had was how the team played with confidence.
“When you’re not getting results,” head coach Caleb Porter said after the match, “it’s tough to be confident. But I was so pleased with my group that they were able to show that confidence [against NYCFC] - individually and collectively.”
One individual who stood out was midfielder Pedro Santos, who tallied seven shots, two on target, two key passes, and a goal en route to MLSsoccer.com Team of the Week honors. On top of that, Santos also drew a 25th-minute foul which led to Gyasi Zardes' penalty-kick goal.
To add to his performance even further, Santos was not playing in his usual position on the wing. Instead, he stepped into the number 10 role to fill in for Federico Higuain, who is out with a season-ending injury.
The main challenge in playing that role is having the right mindset, Porter said.
“To play the 10 and to wear that shirt - you have to have a swagger,” Porter explained, “You have to have confidence - otherwise there is no point in us playing that system.”
Following the match, Santos credited Porter’s continued belief in him throughout the early parts of the season.
“I feel much better every game,” Santos said. “Caleb gives me a lot of confidence and he pushes me every day. He gives me a lot of confidence, so I am very happy with my performance."
Now, with goals in back-to-back games, it shows Porter that his belief in Santos is justified.
“But Pedro [Santos] I think is really showing the ability to be a big-time chance creator and goal scorer,” Porter said. “I saw it in him from the beginning and I was pretty bold about saying ‘he’s good enough to score goals.’ So, he’s repaying that faith.”
And while he is repaying that faith, he is also building up confidence among the rest of the team on both sides of the ball. Against NYCFC, Crew SC was able to tally the most shots that they have had in five weeks at 13. Defensively, they won 53% percent of attempted duels, the most since Week 6 against the New England Revolution.
Now, the Black & Gold have 21 days between Saturday’s match and their next MLS competition. During this time off, they plan on taking this time to continue to build confidence from this performance and their Open Cup match on June 11.
“It’s disappointing to not get the three points,” Porter continued, “but I think our confidence will continue to grow as a team and as it continues to grow then I think we will continue to get more and more complete performances - individually and collectively.”
Up next, Columbus hosts Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC on Tuesday, June 11 for a 7 p.m. ET kickoff at MAPFRE Stadium in the Fourth Round of the 2019 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. Supporters can watch the match exclusively on ESPN+.