Sloppiness, poor communication bedevil Crew defense

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Robert Warzycha let out a sigh after being asked once more about a defense that has sprung many leaks – and opposing forwards – recently.

A little more than a week ago, the Columbus Crew coach said if the team keeps giving up two goals a game, there is no way they will qualify for the playoffs.

Last Saturday, the Crew defeated Philadelphia 3-2, but Warzycha was not about to change his opinion in a conversation with MLSsoccer.com on Tuesday.

“I must say again, if we are going to give up two goals the next game we aren’t going to win it,” he said. “Or, the next game after, we’re not going to win it. It’s only so many times you can score three goals a game.”

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Ironically, the ability to put goals on the board may have come at the expense of the defense, one that was among the league’s four stingiest for two-thirds of the season but has now fallen to seventh at 1.26 goals allowed per match.

“We’re making an effort to score some goals,” defender Josh Williams said. “The games the last couple of weeks we focused on offense, so we’ve slipped a little bit defensively.”

The Crew have conceded 14 times while going 5-3-0 in the past eight games – a figure perhaps inflated by a shutout of Chivas USA, who are on pace for one of the worst offensive seasons in MLS history. In other words, Columbus have given up an average of two goals a game in the other seven.

“We’ve given up multiple goals in a couple of games now. We don’t like that,” Williams said. “We need to lock down our goal and build a fort back there.”

WATCH: Warzycha after Philadelphia

Warzycha pointed out that defending is a team game, so the blame can’t be put solely on the backline or goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum.

However, he does think the defenders are not talking to each other enough, and that has led to gaping holes for the likes of Thierry Henry and Chris Rolfe to burn them.

“We have to have better communication, confidence and concentration,” right back Sebastián Miranda said. “We have to have the last line higher and keep the other team in the middle of the field, because when you defend near your goal it’s always dangerous.”

Seven of their eight shutouts came in the first 18 matches, but Warzycha feels the Crew (14-11-6) are allowing fewer chances than earlier in the season. The problem is, the opportunities they’ve presented in recent games have been juicy ones.

“The chances we’re giving up are chances guys in this league are going to bury every time,” Williams said. “If we can limit those even more, because we have Andy back there and he’s saved us all year, then we’re going to be okay.”