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Early goals too costly for Crew SC

The Black & Gold have struggled to reverse games when their opponents score first lately.

MLS: Columbus Crew at D.C. United Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Conceding goals first in matches has been a nightmare for Columbus Crew SC in 2018. In the last two week, the scripts was the same, with the Black & Gold allowing early goals to the Chicago Fire and D.C. United, failing to show reaction power in the remaining minutes and returning home with 1-0 losses.

Last Saturday, against D.C., the team’s inability to reverse unfavorable scores was evident as Crew SC conceded in the first minute of the match and struggled to create and finish goal scoring opportunities.

“It’s tough to concede early in the game,” forward Gyasi Zardes said after the match. “I think it was a minute and 50 seconds and it’s difficult because teams like to park the bus against us because I think teams know we can exploit them if they come out and play. So, like I said before, it’s just difficult when you go down a goal and teams just play so defensive.”

The striker’s argument, however, didn’t find echo in the words of Gregg Berhalter. On his post-match interview, the head coach said the opponent’s strategy cannot be an excuse for the team’s struggles.

To Berhalter, Crew SC has been failing in one of the main cores of its playing style, which is moving the ball around the field with intelligence and speed to spread its opponents.

That was certainly the case against D.C., as the Black & Gold ended the match with 68.9 percent ball possession, 46 crosses and just five shots on target against an opponent that was down a man on the field for 40 minutes.

“It’s not an excuse, it’s really not,” Berhalter commented. “We can’t say we can crack the backline again. We have to be responsible for not creating good enough chances, not moving the ball quick enough, not looking to get behind them quick enough. When you do that, I think you make it easy for your opponent. Particularly in the first half, when we’re even manned, the ball was moving way too slow.”

The good news for Crew SC is that, after back-to-back road matches, the team returns to Columbus for two straight matches, against the New England Revolution, on April 21, and the San Jose Earthquakes, seven days later.

According to Berhalter, the matches at MAPFRE Stadium will represent a good opportunity not only for the team to move up in the standings after three straight losses, but also to recover the confidence that was shaken after the recent results.

“You don’t lose three games in a row and stay 100 percent confident,” the coach added. “So our job next week is to build that back up. We know we have a couple home games coming up and they’re going to be big games for us.”