COLUMBUS, Ohio – Through the beginning of June, all was going perfectly for Columbus Crew SC.
A June 9 draw against the New York Red Bulls marked the ninth game of the team’s unbeaten run. Offseason acquisition Gyasi Zardes was flying and competing at the top of the MLS Golden Boot race, and the team was challenging at the top of the Eastern Conference.
But since then, the team has gone 1-4-0 in the five games that followed, managing just two goals in the five-game span.
“Every week I’m concerned if we’re going to score goals or not,” head Ccach Gregg Berhalter said at training Thursday. “When we don’t, I get even more concerned. When we score two goals in five games, you can imagine the concern level I’m at – it’s high.”
Berhalter said he’s not entirely unhappy with his attackers. He said he thinks they’re in the right places and getting chances, but haven’t been able to finish.
“It’s not for a lack of trying from these guys; it’s not from a lack of chances,” he said. “It’s the lack of just doing it – putting the ball in the net.
“I feel for the guys; I feel for the team; I feel for everyone. But we’re trying. The guys are doing their best to try to put the ball in the back of the net, so we’re hoping for a breakthrough.”
Perhaps the best chance of that breakthrough comes from Zardes.
The striker is in the midst of a career renaissance, scoring 11 goals in just 21 matches and starting every game for Columbus this season.
Zardes said he feels the team’s biggest issue at the moment is “just being unlucky,” and said he has confidence that the goals will return.
“Trust the process; just keep on doing what we’re doing,” he said. “It was successful at the beginning of the year and we went through a tough spell. We’ve just got to keep doing what we’re doing.”
After the draw against New York, Berhalter said he didn’t believe a lack of contribution from his wingers and other players was a problem.
“I just think that’s a narrative; I don’t believe in that,” he said.
Now, he said he understands the concern, but still isn’t willing to say they’re not doing enough. He said “if the guys are getting chances, we’re happy,” regardless of whether the final product is there.
“He didn’t get the production by MLS stats, but it was a performance that I could say, ‘This is a great performance from a guy who’s done everything but score a goal,’” he said. “So I think, when I see games like that, I’m not concerned even though the stat line wasn’t there.”
But Berhalter’s confidence in his current group doesn’t mean he thinks additions are unnecessary.
He said he thinks the team needs an addition during the summer to fix their current problems, and said that’s been his stance all season.
“We want options,” he said. “We want guys needing to perform to be on the field, and I think that’s a good thing. Competition in the squad is a good thing. I think I’ve been consistent, from the beginning of the year, saying we want to add an attacking piece. That hasn’t changed since January.”