The dog days of summer are about to be upon us. The season is no longer new and exciting. Instead, we are at the grind portion of the campaign. We know what this team is and we are all waiting for the real competition to begin. Come November, we know it’s business time. Until then, we are forced to find things here and there to nit pick to hold our interest.
The biggest complaint surrounding this team right now is the lack of offense. Cristian Colman can’t score. How are we going to be able to get to MLS Cup if we can’t put the ball into the net? If we don’t start scoring, we will be bounced in the first round again?
I went back and looked at our goals per game over the last couple of seasons and noticed that we are exactly where we have been the last two years. In 2015, we averaged 1.52 goals a game, in 2016 1.47 and this year we are at 1.5 goals per match. We are right where we have been the past couple of years. Goal scoring is going to be fine. The biggest issue the past two years has been defending, on the road.
Look at the away stat sheets from the last two playoff series we have lost. We gave up three goals in both games. That’s why we lost the series. It had nothing to do with our goalscoring ability. Instead, we crumbled defensively on the road and weren’t able to come back from it. Coming home having to make up a three and goal goal differential buried us in a hole that we just weren’t able to come back from.
In both of those matches, we were able to create excellent chances in the return legs and eventually make a game of them. Unfortunately, we were too stretched for far too long and ended up giving up a crucial away goal. Due to a lack of defense in the away legs, we left ourselves with absolutely no wiggle room.
Go back to 2015 when we defeated Seattle in ET to advance to the Western Conference final. The defense only conceded two goals in Seattle, allowing for a more balanced game plan when the team came back home. FC Dallas conceded an away goal in that series but, because they didn’t dig an insurmountable hole, were able to come back from it. Yes, it had to be in dramatic fashion, but they were able to do it.
Teams win MLS Cup on the back of a strong defense and timely goals. The main factor is the ability to keep the ball out of the net. Seattle won MLS Cup without getting a shot on goal last year. They were in that place because of the strong defensive work from the team.
Looking forward to this year, FCD will live and die with it’s backline and defense. As long as everyone is healthy and still with the club, I am extremely happy about our possibilities. I will match our defensive abilities with anyone in the league. The spine of this team have all been there and know what is needed as well as expected to get big time results.
Yes, soccer is more fun when the team is banging in three and four goals a match, but at the end of the day, that doesn’t equal success in this league. The ability to tighten the screws and lock down on defense is what separates the contenders from the eventual champion. This team is set up perfectly to make a serious run this year. Don’t lose sight of the big picture and get caught up on whether a particular player is scoring enough or not.