The Columbus Crew battled through the snow and frigid temperatures on Saturday to earn a gutsy 2-1 win at Lower.com Field against Toronto FC. The market is absolutely on fire right now with hot takes and speculation.
Let’s dig a little beyond the surface to see what is out there when it comes to the Black & Gold’s stock early in the year.
BUY: Pace of play
Last season, the Crew’s offense was anemic. The spring was disjointed and the summer was filled with slow, prodding soccer. The attack improved slightly by the fall, but the uninspired play still doomed Columbus’ title defense.
This season, the Black & Gold lead Major League Soccer in total scoring attempts and is second in attacking assists and on-target scoring attempts. When compared to last year, these stats show more bite in the way the Crew attacks the opposition.
Interestingly, the present play differs from head coach Caleb Porter’s predictive preseason comments. It wasn’t long ago Porter said this team would have to grind out results and didn’t believe the offense would be up there with the best in the league. Contrary to Porter, early-season sensation Derick Etienne Jr. predicted his squad was going to score three or more goals.
The truth should lie somewhere in the middle. For now, buy the production the offense is showing thus far. Early season production counts just as much as summer and fall results. Buy in now and get those early points in the bank.
BUY: Referring to the Crew as “undefeated”
The outcome two weeks ago against the San Jose Earthquakes — giving up two late set piece goals to draw on the road — still stings. Nine points are better than seven. Nonetheless, the Black & Gold are undefeated and at the top of the league table.
The next three matchups are away at the New York Red Bulls, home against Nashville SC and away at the Philadelphia Union and these will be more of a barometer of this team’s aspiration. Fans can be optimistic with nine goals in three matches warranting that type of wishful thinking.
If Columbus goes to New Jersey and comes home with a win, the rest of the league will realize the Black & Gold Eastern Conference contenders.
HOLD: The Trillium Cup
Toronto has seen better days. With a new coach and a roster in transition, older fans of the Crew could savor Saturday’s result more than previous encounters. The MLS marketing overlords have moved on from creating trophies for these sorts of matchups, but Columbus has faced off with TFC in a number of high-intensity games in the past.
Eastern Conference teams should get their points against the Reds while they can. Offseason signee Lorenzo Insigne doesn’t arrive until the summer, and its unlikely Bob Bradley will linger near the bottom of the standings for long.
The next matchup against Toronto is June 29. Until then, Columbus will hold a one-goal and one-win lead in the Trillium Cup race. Although faithful fans can no longer witness a nationally televised spectacle between the two teams, the Trillium Cup still remains noteworthy to some.
SELL: Your hot takes about Eloy Room
In soccer, when things are not going well fans first direct their displeasure to the manager. Next on that list is often times the goalkeeper. An elite goalkeeper can single handily win games. The Crew has indulged in that luxury numerous times throughout the club’s history.
Although Room is not in that company, he is a very good goalkeeper. He can make one-on-one saves, comparable to the best in MLS. Saturday afternoon, while the rest of the starting 11 were knocking off the rust and getting their game sorted out, Room was miraculously keeping the team in the match.
Nothing he accomplished Saturday excuses all the criticism against him. He’s a public figure who makes a lot of money, but fans should take a step back to see the broader perspective. If the Crew to travels down another MLS Cup trail, Room will surely be a stalwart between the post.