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Timbers’ porous defense could be an invitation for more Crew goals

The Black & Gold have a golden opportunity for a breakout offensive performance. 

MLS: Atlanta United FC at Columbus Crew SC Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

Seven games into the 2019 MLS season and Columbus Crew SC has scored seven goals and conceded five goals. While the Crew sits in second place in the Eastern Conference with 13 points and a 4-2-1 record, the offense has not produced with only two attacking players on the scoresheet.

The margin for error is currently too slim for the Black & Gold. This reality manifested against the Montreal Impact last week when Columbus missed several quality goal-scoring opportunities in the first half and one goal was frustratingly too much for the Crew to counter in 35 minutes of action. Despite having more of the ball and the better of play, the Impact got their goal on a mistake and the Black & Gold were not able to find the net for the second time this year, both of which have resulted in defeats.

Despite being only mid-April, a plus-two goal differential should not be the case for this Crew team that’s blessed with widespread talent and roster continuity for new coach Caleb Porter. Offensive firepower can be utilized all over the pitch in the run of play and on free kicks.

Having said that, there’s some good news for Columbus this Saturday night.

The visiting Portland Timbers is an ideal opponent for the Black & Gold to showcase offensive prowess, as the Crew’s final third play has been like a sleeping giant as the 2019 season wakes up with the warmer weather. The Timbers have conceded 17 goals in six games (2.83 per game). That’s not a misprint. Want more good news from a Columbus perspective? The Timbers are winless, have only scored six goals (one per game) and the team’s best result thus far is a 3-3 tie against the Colorado Rapids, another winless team that has conceded 19 goals in seven games.

With Porter set to stand on the right side of the center line in MAPFRE Stadium, facing his former Timbers side for the first time since taking over in Columbus, Crew fans should expect to see a lot more scoring from their team. Portland’s porous defense is fully-equipped to concede goals as, after a run to MLS Cup last year, Giovanni Savarese’s side has struggled to find any consistency on the defensive end of the field.

Porter said this week that while his team does need to score more goals, he wants to do so without jeopardizing defensive tactics. Crew captain Wil Trapp told Massive Report that the current snapshot of Portland doesn’t reveal the full picture of a talented Timbers squad in which the Black & Gold will surely be aware of at kickoff. And regarding Portland’s eye-opening 17 goals against in six games, Trapp said the team needs to look inward for success this weekend.

“We just need to think about focusing on ourselves,” the midfielder said. “Focusing on what we can improve from our last game.”

Scoring several goals would certainly qualify as an improvement from the 1-0 loss against Montreal. And scoring at least three goals, which would be the first time for Columbus in its 2019 campaign, would set a new standard for offensive production that will be necessary to tap into when playing top MLS teams this season for Porter and company moving forward.

The Timbers and their leaky defense could provide the right recipe to get the offense flowing.