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Three points was all that mattered for Crew SC last Saturday

It doesn’t have to be pretty at this point in the year for the Black & Gold. It just has to be a win.

MLS: Colorado Rapids at Columbus Crew SC Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Saturday was an interesting result for Columbus Crew SC. On one hand, the Black & Gold got three points at home. On the other hand, Crew SC struggled to score against a Colorado Rapids side that came into the game with one of the worst defensive records in the league.

“Certainly the three points are paramount,” captain Wil Trapp said of the result.

“I still think we can be cleaner in the final third. Not just winning 2-1 against Colorado but can it be four or five? Because we had chances to score.”

Columbus certainly did have chances to leave MAPFRE Stadium over the weekend with a bigger win. Crew SC had 22 shots in the game and 10 of those were on goal. Yet the Black & Gold managed to only undo the Colorado defense and beat Tim Howard twice in the match.

But this is nothing new. Despite being in the middle of Major League Soccer teams when it comes to expected goals, Columbus has scored only 39, third-worst in the league and at the bottom of the Eastern Conference.

Despite still not capitalizing on chances, Trapp was happy with how the game went over one of the Western Conference’s bottom dwellers.

“I still think you want to look at the performance and we’re always performance based in our evaluation of games,” the captain continued. “And I think for the most part, the performance was pretty good. Some things that could have been improved on but we did a good job executing for the most part what our game plan was.”

Conversely to the trend of failing to score despite creating plenty of chances that continued against the Rapids, Crew SC also continues to be solid defensively. The Black & Gold limited Colorado to just three total shots with two on goal. The only finish that beat goalkeeper Zack Steffen was off a quickly taken free kick while Columbus was attempting to setup the wall.

“We limited them to three shots and the goal we concede is one that can be easily corrected,” Trapp said. “So from that standpoint, yes it’s a team that’s struggling but they also had nothing to lose. They’re going to play more free, they’re going to play without fear and those are dangerous teams. So for us to win the game was really important.”

Trapp makes a good point about the Rapids. Colorado sits in 11th place in the West and was already eliminated from MLS Cup playoff contention before Saturday’s game. The Rapids are a team with nothing to lose, looking to play spoiler to contending teams and Crew SC did not allow that to happen on Saturday night.

Also, given the circumstances of last week, the result was even more impressive. Once again in 2018, the Black & Gold played three games in eight days. This stretch was unique in that Columbus started in Dallas, travelled directly to Portland for a game with the Timbers on Wednesday and then returned home for the Colorado match Thursday. The team’s only training session to prepare for the Rapids was on Friday.

“I described it as professional performance,” head coach Gregg Berhalter said of win over the Rapids. “I think you underestimate how much training helps the guys prepare for a match. And when you don’t have that, when you have guys in different time zones and some guys held out, some guys training full. We went into the last training before the game and we had 12 guys out there. I think it disturbs rhythm.”

On paper, a 2-1 result against a struggling Rapids team that is already out of the playoffs doesn’t look like a promising result. But on closer inspection, it’s better than it initially appeared.

With only four games remaining, in the 2018 regular season, it doesn’t have to be the cleanest performances for Crew SC. With the Philadelphia Union just one point back in fifth place, and coming to MAPFRE Stadium on Saturday, and New York City FC only six points ahead in third with one additional game played, all the Black & Gold need is wins.

That’s exactly what Crew SC got on Saturday. It didn’t have to look pretty.