The Columbus Crew leads Major League Soccer in expected goals. The team also ranks second in the Eastern Conference for total goals scored.
The problem, however, is those goals happened in the first four games and none have been scored since.
That was the approach that head coach Caleb Porter took when he spoke to the media following Saturday’s 1-0 loss to the Philadelphia Union and said his team needs to be more aggressive and lacks a killer’s instinct.
“We need to play a bit more angry,” Porter said. “That hunger around the goal is what we’re lacking. We need more edge; we need more killer instinct with our front three. It’s that simple.”
On one hand, Porter is right: It really is that simple.
Against Philadelphia, the Crew attempted 19 shots. The side attempted the same amount the previous match, a 1-0 loss at home to Nashville SC.
But on the other hand, the Black & Gold have shown a killer instinct in attack that was lacking last season until it was too late and the club missed the postseason.
Per Opta, the Crew have an expected goals total of 12.86. Through six games, they’ve actually scored 10 goals – five more than they had at this point in 2021.
And in terms of expected goals allowed, the team is third in MLS with 6.85. Considering they’ve allowed seven, that’s fairly even. It’s also worth noting that the only two goals the team’s conceded from open play were preventable mistakes. One was a defender slipping; another was a dropped cross.
Put the expected goals scored and allowed together and the Crew leads the Eastern Conference with a 6.01 expected goal differential. Overall, the team is second in the league behind LAFC.
“We have high standards,” Porter said. “Some years, maybe we’re finding more victories in the last two games because of how we played. If you’re looking at the bottom line, the last two games, we’ve played very well and the guys gave a lot. (I’m) very proud of that and appreciate everything they gave.
“But to win an MLS Cup, to be fighting for the top of the East, we have to be around goal more ruthless. And I like a lot in Miguel Berry. I like a lot in Derrick Etienne, and Yaw Yeboah, and Gyasi Zardes. These guys are great guys, they give everything they have; they have to be nastier.”
Six guys have scored for Columbus this season, and Lucas Zelarayán leads the pack with four. In second is Derrick Etienne Jr., who’s had a phenomenal start to the 2022 season. The other scorers are Miguel Berry, Gyasi Zardes, Luis Díaz and Darlington Nagbe.
While Zelarayán leads the group, the amount of players who’ve already scored showcases the attacking quality that exists throughout the team. Add a few mores goals into the mix, like when Artur rattled the cross bar in the season opener, and the Crew would probably leads MLS in goals scored.
That’s what makes Porter’s point all the more intriguing. On one hand, the attack has been excellent, albeit not in the last two games. But on the other, the coach and his players demand more – because they still remember what it was like to fall short. The only difference now is they have time to prevent it from happening.
On Saturday night, the Black & Gold host second-place Orlando City SC at Lower.com Field. Truthfully, it’ll stand as a litmus test to see how the Crew stacks up against another good team. And it also feels like a game when a team that’s produced 38 shots in the last two games scores multiple goals.
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