08.06.20 - thumbnail - gyasi zardes

TAKEAWAYS | What we learned after a month in the bubble

Recency bias will certainly take effect when revisiting the Crew's performance in the MLS is Back Tournament.

As we await the resumption of the regular season, a bitter aftertaste lingers on, but at 4-0-1 in the regular season to go along with a perfect 3-0-0 in the tournament's group stage, it’s been a pretty sweet showcase from the Black & Gold so far.

Some notable trends include:

1) Eight goals scored with one goal conceded; 2) A League-high four shutouts; 3) A mixture of set-piece and open-play goals; 4) A top-five team passing accuracy rate at 84.34 percent; 5) a top-seven possession team at 52.93 percent; 6) Top-three in shot conversion rate (21.43 percent - min. 20 shots on target); 7) No goals allowed from open play in the regular season, and 8) Unbeaten in 15 of the last 17 matches dating back to July 2019.

The list could go on, but it's also not meant to give any notion of resting on one’s laurels since, first and foremost, no trophy has been won. We are only five games into the season as 12 teams are within 6 points of the Crew at the top of the Supporters' Shield race.

However, it is acceptable to commend the Black & Gold's start to the season, one that has certainly established a new set of expectations.

In fact, it’s the club’s best-ever start through the first five matches, and as Head Coach Caleb Porter said, he thinks his team is just scratching the surface.

“We didn’t lose one preseason game, we haven’t lost a regular-season game, so this is the first feeling of disappointment. That’s good. That’s good for our group to kind of taste a little bit of disappointment, to know we have to improve. We’re six games in [including the Round of 16 match], and as I said going into this game, we’re just scratching the surface of the team we can be, and there are some things we can definitely improve on.”

Those areas, Porter said, include the transition game and set-pieces.

Meanwhile, the team's passing accuracy and possession levels remained at a high level through the Round of 16, though Minnesota's bunkering for a majority of the match played into that.

“For me, the biggest takeaway is we can’t concede the first goal," Porter said.

"Set pieces, those are things we work on every week and we’ve got to look at that. But once you concede the first goal, now they can sit in. But we still were able to break them down. It’s not like they disrupted us having possession. We had a ton of possession, and we got in good positions in the layers.”

Possession Percentage vs. MIN

Average Position vs. MIN

When asked what he learned about his team during the tournament, Porter said "we’re a good group, we’re a tight group, we’re united, we’ve got great chemistry, we’re mentally tough."

It's probably a statement that is better evaluated by the eye-test rather than any stats.

The mental toughness aspect, however, can be partially encapsulated by one statistic in particular – second-half shots on target faced.

That number currently stands at seven, the second-fewest among teams to have competed in the MLS is Back Tournament.

In addition, the only two points the Crew has dropped from a winning position this year (@SEA) came via a penalty kick that Eloy Room actually saved on the first attempt before being overturned upon Video Review.

So what have we really witnessed so far?

We've seen an ability to score (see vs. FC Cincinnati). We've seen the ability to possess, led by Darlington Nagbe (read more). We've seen offensive and defensive efficiency (more numbers to know).

As shown vs. Minnesota, we've also seen a team be able to batter through a low block and find that equalizer.

Conversely, it's also appropriate to ask what we have not seen.

Combined with not conceding late – a trend of 2019 – the Crew are generally not even allowing the opportunity with only 15 shots on target faced, tied for the second-fewest among MLS is Back teams.

Most notably, though?

We are 450 minutes-played into 2020 and the Crew still has not trailed in a regular-season match.

LATEST CREW KITS: The official jerseys featuring Nationwide Children's Hospital are out now!