16 points of a possible 18.
Those are the point figures Crew SC has totaled when netting the opening goal of a match, earning a 5-0-1 record this season when doing so.
“Goals change games,” head coach Caleb Porter put succinctly following the Crew’s recent setback versus Sporting Kansas City on Sunday, attesting to the domino-effect that can ensue after netting a game’s first goal.
“We’ve got to score in the first half. We played well enough; we had enough chances,” Porter continued. “If you don’t score, you put pressure on yourselves.”
Against Kansas City, the Crew remained on top in nearly every statistical category in the first half, holding the edge in shots, shots on target, corners, duels won, but the elusive goal landed into the opponent’s lap early in the second half – a moment that naturally shifted momentum and one in which Porter expects the team to handle better going forward.
“I like that group there in the locker room, they’re good guys. They come to training; they give all they have. They fight and work,” Porter said. “After giving up the goal, I wanted more, so obviously that was disappointing, but I think we come into most games - you see we’re organized, you see we're up for it, and we were definitely up for it.”
Ultimately, the fight is there and what it comes down to, Porter said, is winning the boxes.
“I think again the attitude, the energy, and the fight; I would say just the work ethic and the spirit in the group the last three weeks has been good but I think that first half sums up a little bit where we're at because we do everything right but we don’t end up getting the goal,” Porter said.
From team tactics to individual mindsets, the first goal is key, or the key, as Sunday’s match illustrated. In the six matches in which Crew SC has scored the opener, the Black & Gold have gone on to outscore the opponent by a combined 11-3.
“I look at it really from the standpoint of – you can do a lot right but if you don’t get the boxes right, you’re going to fall short – and that’s where we’re falling short,” Porter said.
As the Crew look to turn the page on June 29 in what will be the fifth of a five-match homestand, as well as the first of a three-match, eight-day stretch, they will do so against an opponent that, historically, has struggled at MAPFRE Stadium.
Dating back to Orlando City’s introduction to Major League Soccer in 2015, the Purple Lions are winless in Columbus as the Black & Gold sport a 3-0-1 home record against Orlando, highlighted by shutouts in 2015 & 2017 and the infamous 3-2 comeback last year.
Notably, outside of last year’s win, each match vs. Orlando has featured a game-opening goal from the Black & Gold, while Columbus has outscored Orlando 10-4 all-time at MAPFRE Stadium.
Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, in what will be a historic day for the Columbus Crew family as the Black & Gold get set to induct the late Sigi Schmid into the Club’s Circle of Honor at halftime.
At the match, fans can expect to hear past Crew SC members share their memories of Schmid, who led Crew SC to an MLS Cup title in 2008 as but one piece of his overarching influence on the Club and U.S. soccer as a whole.