OBETZ, Ohio — The Columbus Crew are the league's best team at garnering points when they trail at the half. They also have the fourth-best record after allowing the first goal.
Both statistics can be a source of pride as well as consternation.
“Every game it’s the same old thing,” midfielder Eddie Gaven said. “The team goes down and we have to fight and claw our way back.”
Columbus (3-3-6) will try to reverse the trends Wednesday against Real Salt Lake (7:30 p.m. ET; watch LIVE online). After not allowing a goal before halftime through the first five games, the Crew have yielded a goal three times before the 10th minute in three of the past five games.
Maybe not coincidentally, they have two losses and three ties in those matches. The bad news is the Crew have not held the lead in the past five matches. On the positive side, their last five goals over those five games have tied the score, including rookie Rich Balchan’s in stoppage time Saturday at New York for a 1-1 tie.
“After we go down we don’t just fall over,” Gaven said. “We keep working and trying to come back. At the same time you don’t always want to go in the hole because it makes the game so much harder.”
He thinks the Crew needs to have better focus at the start of matches.
“That’s one thing this team is trying to do a little better with, make sure we come out with a lot more energy,” Gaven said. “It seems like the last four or five games we’ve come out flat; the other team is all over us and they we finally start to wake up and play really well toward the end of the game.
“It’s bad that the team doesn’t open up the way we want, but it’s also good we’re able at some point to bounce back and take it to the other team.”
Coach Robert Warzycha has a different take on the early goals.
“I don’t think we are coming out flat,” he said. “Look at the goals we are giving up. They’re mental lapses at some point. Someone doesn’t read the game. It’s one run, one step. More than anything, we need to communicate better.”
The Crew are 0-3-4 when allowing the first goal and 0-0-4 after trailing at the half.
“Something we always say is that you have to score the first goal because the goals change the game,” Warzycha said. “It seems we’re going from not giving up goals in the first few games to now we’re giving up goals in the first 10 minutes.
“That’s the game of soccer. We have to be more aggressive in stopping goals in the first half.”