If there’s one thing that separates Columbus Crew SC this season from the prior four years under head coach Gregg Berhalter, it’s the defensive effort. Coming off three consecutive shutouts, it was another solid defensive performance that paved the way for a 1-0 victory at the New England Revolution on Saturday night.
Nine minutes into the contest, a cross from winger Niko Hansen fell to the feet of Designated Player Federico Higuain, but the attacker’s striker was well over the crossbar.
The first half went by without too many attacking chances for either team. With only a few minutes left in the second half, center back Lalas Abubakar put a headed effort on frame that was cleared off the line. A follow up effort by the Black & Gold was also denied to keep the game scoreless.
In the 69th minute, Columbus right back Harrison Afful tried to take matters into his own hands. The Ghanian dribbled past not one, not two, but three defenders and fired a shot. His effort, while exciting, was not on target.
A minute later, Federico Higuain fed second half substitute Cristian Martinez running into the penalty area. The young Panamanian winger did not have a window to shoot initially and cut inside, but continued to try and create space, eventually closing his shooting window to zero.
Just four minutes from time, it was Crew SC taking the lead thanks to a set piece. Higuain sent a bending corner into the penalty box and the on rushing Abubakar power the ball into the back of the net with his head.
The Lalas header blast was enough to secure three points for Columbus on the road.
Defense is the answer
Remember the first few years of Gregg Berhalter’s tenure when the Black & Gold couldn’t keep the ball out of the net? That seems like a distant memory at this point.
Crew SC now have recorded four consecutive shutouts and are becoming a defensive team. This is a far cry from this once attacking, defensively-flawed team.
We’re going streaking!
After four straight to start the 2018 season, Crew SC lost three consecutive games. Since that point, dating back to the first meeting with the Revolution, Columbus has not suffered defeat in six consecutive matches.
With the most matches in MLS at this point, this is good news for the Black & Gold, who have to collect as many points as possible in the early portion of the year.
What? Columbus Crew SC on national television? Who would have thought!
On Sunday, the Black & Gold travel to Sporting Kansas City for a game on Fox Sports 1. It might change the complexion of the league to see Columbus on TV, but it’s about time...