Sunday, September 21, 2014

Crew Charging to the Finish Line

The Columbus Crew put away New England last night in a (satisfyingly) tightly contested match. The victory didn't see the Crew moving much either way on the overall MLS table but it did help them solidify their 5th place spot in the East.

The win also takes the Crew to 2.00 Points per Game average over the past 10 matches. This near term metric tells us that head coach Gregg Berhalter is getting the best results of the season.

Looking at previous years you'll also see that this 2 pts per game run this late in the season over a 10 game stretch hasn't been seen in Columbus since 2008 and 2009. While the league is a completely different animal than it was all those years ago, the meaning of late season MLS results isn't.

Late season MLS is a strange... thing. It's when mid-table teams caught in the muck start pressing down on the gas. There are times they are able to catch a top team coasting (a problem for this league format) or a bad team packing it up for the year (another HUGE problem without relegation). In between there though, are these average team / mid table clashes like this one for the Crew last night. And they won it.

You'll see in year's past where the Crew have fallen off in these meaningful games during an important time of the year for mid level teams (most of the Crew teams since 2010 have been achingly average).


One last thing to point out is the middle part of the year when the Crew were really having a hard time getting victories. As this chart highlights, it was one of the longest (it was the longest when looking at it this way) prolonged time of poor results in this seven year stretch.

Goal scoring was a real issue during that run but what's turned it around is the sudden success and production of the Right and Left Mids (namely; Ethan Finlay, Justin Meram and Waylon Francis getting forward).

The Crew have been top 5-7 in defending all year, even during the sub 1.00 PPG stretch. Last few games have seen production drop from the mid roles but a surprising goal from Wil Trapp and a pretty free kick goal last night from Federico Higuain have kept this run going.

So, the question remains if the Crew can figure it out up top or can the Midfield play keep it going. It will have to be figured out at some point, otherwise we will keep seeing these peaks and valleys.

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