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Defensive turnovers are an issue Columbus Crew SC needs to address

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Against NYCFC, the Black & Gold conceded two goals after giving the ball away on its own field.

MLS: New York City FC at Columbus Crew SC Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Columbus Crew SC’s 3-2 home defeat to New York City FC put in display one of the biggest issues the Black & Gold are facing on the 2017 Major League Soccer season as the team conceded two goals on plays where it turned the ball over on its own half of the field.

Doing whatever it takes to keep the possession — and even taking some risks for it — is one of the pillars of Crew SC in the Berhalter Era. However, this philosophy eventually leads to some mistakes, as the one our Collin Johnson described on his Anatomy of a Goal piece earlier this week.

“We need to have confidence and allow the guys to play,” midfielder Ethan Finlay said about the turnover that led to NYCFC’s third goal last week. “We know they are going to turn over the ball a little bit, but the big thing for us, when we do, is that we have really good balance, that we are not a little out of a whack. On the goal the other night, we were a little bit out of balance. But we do that often and won’t just stop doing it because of one play.”

Finlay is right when he says the biggest issue was the fact that the team was caught off guard, but, unfortunately, it wasn’t only one play. This mistake was costly for the game winner, but the Black & Gold also had a pass intercepted on the midfield line that led to Jack Harrison’s first goal.

The same happened over a month ago, against the Portland Timbers, when a wasted possession at midfield ended with Dairon Asprilla finding the back of the net. Against the Houston Dynamo, in the first road game of the season, Zack Steffen had his pass intercepted by Romell Quioto on the opening goal.

Look at the images below and note the high number of interceptions recorded by the Chicago Fire (left), the Houston Dynamo (center) and New York City FC (right) in Crew SC’s defensive side of the field.

Turning the ball over on the defensive end shouldn’t be such a big problem if you were ready to react when it happens. In some cases, as on Harrison’s second goal, there is not much to do, but NYCFC’s first goal was avoidable as you can notice on the replay.

City has five players on the screen and one of them (Alexander Ring, who intercepted the pass) is well behind the ball. Crew SC has six defenders on the play, but none of them tries to stop Maxi Moralez’s run before he enters the box and finds Harrison free to score.

“When I look at the goal last week it is one where we give the ball away in a position where we were covering and I don’t think we dealt with the counter attack very well,” Crew SC’s head coach Gregg Berhalter said. “So that’s what is going to be addressed, how we deal with a counter attack. I won’t necessarily relate the high pressure to the goals because I think they could have been avoided, they could have gotten out of those situations.”

Keeping the ball is one of the most important aspects of Crew SC’s game and the team shouldn’t change its style. However, being a little bit more careful and cautious to avoid the turnovers and understanding how to react to them would make the team ever more solid.

This Saturday, against the New England Revolution, who possess a scary frontline with Lee Nguyen, Kei Kamara and Juan Agudelo, the Black & Gold can start showing they can learn from their mistakes and maintaining better balance.

“I think it’s just being smart about who’s forward, when they’re forward and how we lose balls,” Berhalter said of the matchup. “Then there’s the last element of how you deal with counter attacks. For the most part, we’ve been pretty good. The New York City game, the first goal was an example of not doing it well, but it’s being concentrated and getting numbers behind the ball and putting pressure on the ball.”