clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Columbus Crew barely a playoff team right now

Taking a look at the bare minimum requirements for a MLS team to make the playoffs. Using the recent past as a guide to see where the Columbus Crew need to improve for 2014 to make the postseason.

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

It is no secret the past couple seasons have not ended as Crew supporters would have wished, on the outside looking in. The challenge for Gregg Berhalter and his staff this upcoming season is getting back to postseason play. Since the season is almost upon us I thought it was appropriate to look at what the Crew might need to do to get back into the playoffs. Playoffs? Yes, I am talking about the playoffs. This offseason, the Crew added a new coaching and front office staff, said goodbye to the longest tenured player in Chad Marshall by trading him to Seattle, and dealt with the surprise retirement of Eddie Gaven which has left fans with more questions than answers. Well unlike Jim Mora I will talk about the playoffs and how the Crew can get back into the postseason for the first time since 2011.

We are going to put on our managerial scarfs and take a look at what the past three MLS seasons have shown us about how to make the playoffs.  So let's take a look at a few numbers and see where the Crew need to improve to make it back into the playoffs.

Points Total
The most obvious area the Crew must improve on, is accumulating more points. While not exactly groundbreaking it does beg the question as to how much do they need to improve? The table below shows the last Eastern Conference team to make it into the playoffs each of the last three seasons. We are only looking at Eastern Conference standings because in 2011 MLS got rid of the wild card playoff format, which means we can forget about Western Conference teams, at least in terms of how we qualify for the playoffs.

Year

Team

Points

Games Played

Points Per

Game

2013

Montreal

49

34

1.44

2012

Dynamo

53

34

1.56

2011

Red Bulls

46

34

1.35

Average

49.33

34

1.45

2013

Columbus Crew

41

34

1.21


If the Crew are able to squeak out 8 more points this season they will be in a prime spot to qualify for the playoffs. Over the past three seasons it has taken just over 49 points on the season or 1.45 points per game to qualify. Berhalter will have to take much of the same group of players and wrangle a minimum of 8 additional points out of them, to get the Crew on the cusp of the playoffs. How does this happen?

Offense vs Defense
Berhalter has stated the team spent too much money on the back line. This led the front office to jettison Chad Marshall, Glauber, and Danny O'Rouke, to help free up salary space. Clearly the Crew's Front Office believed the team had to shed some salary off the back line to help create more opportunities to bring in midfield and attacking players. While this has not happened as of yet (sorry Jimenez), it would seem this line of thinking may be correct (below graph). If we look at the table we can see that Crew's offense was the main problem for the team last season. The defense was just about average enough for them to make the playoffs, while the attack was well off the pace.

Year

Team

Goals Scored

Goals Against

Goal Difference

2013

Montreal

50

49

+1

2012

Dynamo

48

41

+7

2011

Red Bulls

50

44

+6

Average

49.33

44.66

+4.66

2013

Columbus Crew

42

46

-4

The lack of offensive signings should be very concerning for Crew fans. It is clear Berhalter feels Jairo Arrieta will repeat his 2012 form, and not last seasons. If the defense can marginally improve and Arrieta can regain his scoring form, then the Crew will be knocking on the door to the playoffs. However, combine the poor goal scoring from last season with Berhalter's reputation, limited as it might be, as a defensive first coach and it could make for a long season for Crew fans. It is clear that if in 2014 the Crew are going end their two season drought of not making the playoffs, then they must improve on the offensive end.

Home vs Away
Every team treats home games as three points regardless of their opponents. In 2013 the Crew struggled at home which cost them dearly in their chase of making it into the postseason. The past three seasons it has required 34 points from 17 home games to reach the playoffs. The Crew only accumulated 24 points, which is reflected in a low total of +6 in goal differential. While they struggled at home to get the required points, they were a surprisingly decent road team. They were slightly above the average road points needed to qualify for the postseason. If Berhalter can turn Crew Stadium back into a home fortress that it once was, it will make his first season as Head Coach of the Crew a successful one.

Year

Team

Home

Points

Home

GD

Away

Points

Away

GD

2013

Montreal

33

11

16

-10

2012

Dynamo

39

19

14

-12

2011

Red Bulls

30

12

16

-6

Average

34

14

15.33

-9.33

2013

Columbus Crew

24

6

17

-10


Verdict
Every offseason in MLS brings so many changes that it's very hard to judge a team from one year to the next. Non-playoff teams like Toronto and Philadelphia have added expensive pieces, while Chicago and New England have brought back a talented core of players. However, there are some minimum requirements for teams to reach the playoffs, and the Crew will have to improve in pretty much every single area to accomplish this. If they can improve their home form and tally more goals they will find themselves in the hunt this season.