In 2019, 16 Crew SC players started 10 or more games and earned over 1,000 minutes of playing time, with the top-five minute-earners all representing key areas of the field.
Notably, 32 players in total earned 90 or more minutes of playing time in 2019.
Now, as the team enters a formative offseason for player personnel additions and development, president and general manager Tim Bezbatchenko made one thing clear - “this is not a rebuild by any means.”
"We have a strong core," Bezbatchenko said. "What we need to do is work on our mental toughness to finish out games, and some of that you can do in training, some of it is the culture you set, the goals you set in your identity."
Crew SC gave up 11 points from a winning position last year, in addition to 10 losses by a one-goal differential.
In addition to developing a harder mentality - a theme Porter emphasized throughout the season - draws that can be turned into wins and losses into draws is a key focus, Bezbatchenko continued.
"So how do we work in this offseason and in preseason to become a team that is difficult to play against? That you know when you’re playing the Columbus Crew when they are winning in the last 15 minutes of the game, that it’s going to be hard to tie them or beat them," Bezbatchenko said.
That said, that particular trait is something he does see in the current group.
"This team has it in them, I just think there were moments when we just got too far behind, especially in that stretch of 13 games in the middle of the year where we have to be better and we need to find ways to draw the games that we lost and win the games that we drew," Bezbatchenko said.
Consistency, after all, is a significant leg-up, he noted.
"I think a competitive advantage in our league is when you have consistency and you can build upon the things you do well and improve upon the things you did not," Bezbatchenko said.
Moving on from a year that featured 18 different backline formations, it's about working with this core. But that doesn't mean this team won't look to add key pieces in the coming months.
"I think it’s about working with this core that we have. It doesn’t mean that we are not looking for difference makers and I think that’s where the Designated Player comes in," Bezbatchenko said. "Your big players have to step up and score and provide the catalyst that you need in certain points of games…so that’s what we are looking for – game-changers."