thumbnail - 08.23.20

PORTER | Shutouts a product of Crew's 'style of playing and way that we are executing'

The Crew's five shutouts in its six games is a Club-first, and the 11-goal score differential is the highest through the first six games in Club history. It's also been 720 regular-season minutes since the Crew last conceded a goal that was not from a set-piece or a penalty kick.

It's easy to place the credit on a stout backline-goalkeeper unit, but it makes more sense to see that it's simply a matter of not giving up many opportunities.

"We were talking about it today as a staff how we have five shutouts in six games and we've only given up a penalty kick," Head Coach Caleb Porter said. "It'd be easy to say 'oh, the backline is rock solid or the goalkeeper,' but the reality is opponents are not getting a lot of chances."

Amongst teams who competed in the MLS is Back Tournament, the Crew's faced 18 shots on target this season, tied for the third-lowest in MLS, in addition to maintaining a League-leading duel win percentage of 54.4 percent. As far as those 18 shots faced, only seven have come from inside the box, tied for the second-lowest in the League when excluding Nashville SC (only 5 games played).

"I think our style of playing and way that we are executing means we are keeping the ball more and we are not defending as much," continued Porter. "When we are pressing high, it means the opponent is further away from our goal. If we are doing it right, it actually the back four isn't defending our box, they are actually a high line and squeezing, sealing."

In terms of execution, the Crew's average ball possession of 53.13 percent ranks sixth in MLS amongst MiB-participating teams, and it's not simply retaining more possession in their own half considering the team ranks fourth in the League in successful passing in the opponent's half.

So whether it's denying opportunities by blocking shots (21), making clearances (111), or simply maintaining more possession up the field, high-quality chances from open play have come few and far between for opposing teams.

► HIGHLIGHTS | Columbus Crew SC 3 - 0 Chicago Fire FC

In goal, Eloy Room has presided over a majority of those minutes, while Andrew Tarbell recorded his second win in two straight regular-season starts. 

Tarbell said Chicago had a couple of chances through the counter-attack, but it's always going to be about the organization when it comes to successful defensive teams.

"I think it's all 11 guys on the field. Everyone from Gyasi out front, to everyone through the whole back of the team defends as a unit," Tarbell said, who ended Thursday night with three saves.

To no surprise, the Crew holds a league-leading save percentage of 94.44, while Tarbell's remains at an even 100 percent (9 saves) through his two regular-season appearances in 2020.

Still, "it's all 11 guys working together is what minimizes other teams' chances, and that's what it comes down to," Tarbell said. "We just haven't given up very many chances, and that's a testament to all 11 guys doing their job with a lot of intensity on both sides of the ball."

Monday will feature a match-up against a previous and, as most would agree, under-performing opponent in NYCFC, who has scored just twice this season.

Of course, this match will feature on the road with same-day travel involved, and as Porter explained, NYCFC's talent level hasn't changed much from the 2019 Eastern Conference Champion-caliber we came to expect this year.

Porter said Lucas Zelarayan, who played through a sore ankle in the MiB Tournament, is continuing to train despite not playing against Chicago.

As crucial as Zelarayan is, the Crew has logged five different goal-scorers through six games. That's compared to having just four different goal-scorers through the first nine games in 2019.

Come Monday, the Black & Gold are looking to secure their fifth straight win for the first time since 2009. Should Columbus earn its sixth win in the first seven matches, well, the last time that happened? 2008.

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