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Columbus Crew SC coach, players seek answers as scoring dries up

D.C. United defender/midfielder Chris Durkin (21) and Columbus Crew SC defender Milton Valenzuela (19) chase after a loose ball at MAPFRE Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

After Crew SC fell behind early and took its second straight shutout loss on Saturday against D.C. United, coach Gregg Berhalter was asked how he perceives his team’s 241-minute scoring drought.

Is the sudden drop in offensive production a cause for concern regarding the general state of the offense? Or were the last 180 minutes isolated incidents resulting from the Crew playing against two compact defenses in Chicago and D.C.?

“To be honest it’s a little bit of both,” Berhalter said. “Some of it you attribute to we’re playing against a very compact defense and we need to be really fast, really precise and create, and some of it is we need to be in better positions and really execute at a higher level than we have been.”

A scoring drought the likes of which the Crew hasn’t seen since early in the 2014 season is something Berhalter said he “absolutely” expected at some point this season. Over the course of a 34-game season, at least a few offensive hiccups could have been predicted. Now the challenge is diagnosing problems as they arise and finding ways to create more quality chances.

“We got the attacking group together and we talked about our positioning and having more structure in the attack,” Berhalter said of the Crew’s past two games. “(In some cases) guys (weren’t) in the right positions to really hurt the opponent.”

As Gyasi Zardes — who has four goals in seven games to lead the team — Milton Valenzuela and Cristian Martinez continue their orientation into the starting lineup, and Pedro Santos and Artur take on greater responsibilities in the offense, it’s clear the 31 goals lost with the departures of Justin Meram and Ola Kamara won’t be replaced overnight.

But the Crew’s eight goals in its first four games — for a 3-0-1 start — show what can happen when the team’s attacking players are in the right spots in the right moments.

“Gyasi obviously has started extremely well. Cristian and Pedro have done well to start, and then there has been a little cool-off period for everyone in the attack, so it’s growing pains,” midfielder Wil Trapp said. “We could sit here and be overly upset about everything or we could be just saying it’s unlucky, but it’s neither of those. It’s just something that we have to continue to work through and affect on the training field.”

Some, like Santos, are working on shooting more as they take on more of the scoring burden. Artur continues to sharpen his offensive skill set. And Martinez hopes his efforts on the practice field translate to something tangible on game day, specifically his first goal of 2018.

“Anytime the team does well I feel good, but at the same time I feel a little bit of a burden because I want to contribute to the team,” Martinez said through a team translator. “I want to score my first goal.”

 

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