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New Year's Resolutions for the Columbus Crew

With a new coaching staff and a need for change, I take a look at some possible New Year's Resolutions that would make 2014 a more successful year for the Black and Gold.

Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

People around the world spend the last few days of the year pondering their New Year's resolutions; things they want to do in order to improve from the previous year.

Generally these are reserved for people, but why couldn't they apply to teams as well?

Here are some New Year's resolutions for the Columbus Crew heading into 2014 if they want to return to the MLS playoffs.

Score more goals.

Last season, the Crew scored 42 goals in 34 games, good enough to rank 14th out of 19 teams.

As Nate Beckman pointed out in his recent article about the Black and Gold's attack next season, since the league went to the 34-game schedule in 2011, all but one of the 14 teams to score 50 goals or more has made the MLS Cup Playoffs.

"The Crew have not scored 50 goals since the 2008 Supporters Shield and MLS Cup Championship season," Nate says. "If they can manage to do so again in 2014, chances are good that many other pre-season goals will follow."

It is easy to say you want to score more goals, but how does a team do that?

It starts with being more efficient.

Columbus had the fourth most shots in the league last year (479), yet they ranked ninth in shots on goal (151). That means they only put 31.5% of their shots on goal and only scored on 27.8% of those.

In comparison, the Supporter's Shield-winning New York Red Bulls scored 58 goals during the season. Their shots on goal percentage was just under 36% and their goals per shots on goal was 40%.

The MLS Cup winners, Sporting Kansas City, only put 30.9% of their shots on goal, but converted on over 30% in the regular season.

The Crew's resolution should be to get closer to these numbers, which requires valuing chances more. Last year, the Black and Gold liked to fire shots from long range, when the high percentage looks are inside the box where it is easier to place the ball.

Doing that alone would improve Columbus' chances to return to the post season.

Play on the ground

Soccer is known by many names around the world, but all languages understand the beautiful game. At times last year, the Crew made a mockery of that name.

It is not just them, there are many MLS teams that prefer a kick-and-run method, but that isn't overly successful.

If Columbus wants to be more effective, it starts with playing the game the way it was meant to be played.

This of course depends on the personnel, but the Crew have players that like to play that way. Wil Trapp showed his ability last year passing the ball. He keeps things simple and finds his teammates. He is not looking for a killer pass every time, but that can be a strength; he knows when to play the decisive pass.

Federico Higuain also prefers to play that way. He will hit the long ball at times, but generally he wants to create and find his attacking partners.

These two are a good start for head coach Gregg Berhalter to teach his team to be a little more finesse and less rugged.

Maintain their defensive numbers

This may not seem like a New Year's resolution because it is keep the status quo, but the defense has changed substantially from the unit that has been in the top-10 every year since 2008.

The Crew have lost their defensive leader, Chad Marshall, and have no proven full-time left back. They signed Waylon Francis, who they hope can take over that roll on the outside, but there are no guarantees with an unknown player in this league.

Danny O'Rourke was a player the Crew could count on to fill in all over the defensive line when necessary and he too is gone. Defense is played by the whole team and you could always count on O'Rourke to do the dirty work where ever he lined up.

In 2013 the Black and Gold moved players around the backline frequently, due to injuries and inconsistent individual play. If Columbus is going to be successful, they want to keep the defense as consistent as possible.

A stout defense keeps a team in any game and takes pressure off the offense to score multiple goals. Though the Crew want to be better offense, they say defense wins championships and they need to live by that mantra.

A new year brings new opportunities and a chance for growth. Having not made the playoffs since 2011, the Crew have lots of room to improve and these would be good resolutions to start