As part of a series, ColumbusCrewSC.com examines key numbers and trends surrounding the players. In this edition, we take a closer look at the interplay between the Crew's offensive and defensive efficiency..
If there’s been one thing that’s stood out from the Crew thus far in the MLS is Back Tournament, it’s the technical ability each position holds and how that plays into the team’s success.
Ahead of Tuesday’s Knockout Round match vs. Minnesota United, we take a look at standout stats that display the offensive & defensive efficiency of this Crew roster as a result of the style of play.
First off, the Crew’s nine goals on the season stand tied for fifth league-wide, though nearly half of those came in a 4-0 win vs. FC Cincinnati.
That said, it’s not a simple case of aggregating a large number of shots leading to a high number of goals.
Though the Crew stands tied for fourth with 11 “big chances created,” a term defined by Opta as “a situation where a player should reasonably be expected to score, usually in a one on one scenario or from very close range when the ball has a clear path to goal and there is low to moderate pressure on the shooter,” the Black & Gold stand very much in the middle of the pack in total shots (42, T-13th) and total shots on target (21, T-12th).
That 50-percent shooting accuracy rate, again, ranks fairly average (eighth out of 13 teams who hold a minimum of 20 total shots), but where the efficiency note comes into play is the shot conversion rate, or the number of total goals divided by the number of total shots.
This is where the Crew’s ability to find those “big chances” makes a difference, because of the team’s nine goals this season, seven have come from inside the 18-yard-box, while five of the nine have come from within roughly the distance to the penalty-kick marker.
Importantly, those quality chances play through efficient playmakers at each rung of the lineup, from the backline to the striker.
As a team, the Crew ranks fourth overall in passing accuracy at 84.34 percent, most notably led by midfielder Darlington Nagbe, whose list of notable stats includes:
- 95.56 percent passing accuracy – 1st in MLS (min. 100 passes)
- 95.30 percent passing accuracy in opponent’s half – 1st in MLS (min. 100 passes)
- 94.74 percent accuracy in passing ending in final third – 1st in MLS (min. 100 passes)
MLS is Back Tournament:
- Completed 73 of 74 passes in opponent’s half
- Completed 24 of 24 passes ending in final third
Turnover? Darlington Nagbe hasn't heard of it. pic.twitter.com/pV5u4heceg— Major League Soccer (@MLS) July 22, 2020
As efficient as Nagbe is, and it’s important to note that the Crew has two of the most technically-gifted outside backs in the league in Harrison Afful and Milton Valenzuela in addition to a centerback pairing in Jonathan Mensah and Aboubacar Keita who have shown they remain calm on the ball.
Valenzuela’s 84.21-percent passing accuracy ending the final third ranks fifth among league defenders, while Afful is top-five in the same category among defenders with 360 minutes played (81.82 percent).
For Mensah, his defensive numbers speak for themselves, but he also holds an 88.35-percent passing accuracy rate among defenders with a minimum of 360 minutes played, while Keita actually ranks second overall in passing accuracy at 93.90 percent among players with a minimum of 100 passes.
Of course, the Crew's ability to work the ball effectively comes to a head in Gyasi Zardes, whose four goals on five shots on target doesn't need much explaining when it comes to capitalizing on opportunities.
All of that said, the group's efficiency does not solely lay on the offensive end. Though Caleb Porter gave the explanation of a great offense makes a great defense, the Crew’s league-leading one-goal conceded is also a testament to the team’s top-three duel success rate (54.23 percent) in addition to facing the fifth-fewest shots of any team to have competed in the MLS is Back Tournament (51).
As you can see below, the Crew has been successful in pinning teams back, thereby limiting goal-scoring opportunities for the opponent.
FCC's Heat Map
RBNY's Heat Map
ATL's Heat Map
The moral of the story? As dominant as the club may seem in certain respects from a sheer ranking perspective, it's all interconnected, and where it shows most simply is in the final score.
Kickoff on Tuesday vs. Minnesota United is set for 8 p.m. ET on ESPN and TSN, and can be streamed on the ESPN app and TSN app. For live audio, visit ColumbusCrewSC.com/liveaudio to stream in English and Spanish.