Despite taking one its most lopsided losses in franchise history Friday night, Crew SC begins a two-game week above the line in the Eastern Conference standings.
Crew SC (6-7-1) remains at 19 points after a 5-0 loss to Toronto FC and sits sixth in the conference standings, one point behind New York City FC (13 games played), Orlando City SC (13 played) and the New York Red Bulls (14 played). Atlanta United (5-4-3) jumped to 18 points after a 3-1 win over NYCFC on Sunday and has two games in hand.
The loss at Toronto did, however, drop Crew SC to a negative goal differential (-4) for the first time since the club’s 3-1 loss to Houston in March.
Five Toronto goals Friday brought Crew SC’s goals allowed total to 24, four clear of the rest of the conference. Minnesota United leads the league with 30 goals allowed and Real Salt Lake is tied with Crew SC at 24.
Friday’s lopsided result included, Crew SC is on pace to allow just north of 58 goals, the same total it yielded in an 8-14-12 2016 season.
Crew SC spent significant resources last offseason retooling its defense, signing or drafting four center backs and two fullbacks. The club also brought in Artur on loan and acquired Mohammed Abu to bolster the central midfield.
The group showed signs of improvement early in the season — three shutout victories in the club’s first 10 games — but lately, opponents have punished Crew SC mistakes to find the back of the net with greater frequency.
A recent three-game road stretch at Montreal, New England and Toronto brought club’s streak of allowing multiple goals to four straight games.
In a 2-1 loss to New England on May 21, poor positioning in transition led to a pair of first-half goals that sank the Crew. Toronto likewise pounced on Crew SC mistakes Friday.
“I think they did well with the transition moments and it kind of caught us off guard at moments,” goalkeeper Zack Steffen said. “They took their chances.”
The first goal — a Vincent Vazquez penalty kick in the sixth minute — resulted from a foul in the box in which Jonathan Mensah was a step behind Tosaint Ricketts.
“The action was fast and then, you know, it was the referee’s decision that it was a penalty,” Mensah said after the game. “After they got the goal, we got back into the game before they got their second goal, but we didn’t show up and they took advantage of that.”
A second goal came after Toronto took advantage of a short field following a Waylon Francis lateral header and a Wil Trapp giveaway.
Mensah set up No. 3 — a Vazquez free kick goal — after fouling Marky Delgado on the edge of the box. Crew coach Gregg Berhalter said Nos. 4 and 5 were more understandable with Crew SC opened up in an effort to create more offense, but they happened with the Crew up a man late.
“I can understand (issues in defensive transition) as the game gets 3-0 and we want to open up and we want to attack with more numbers. In the beginning, I can’t understand it,” Berhalter said. “I think it’s a lack of concentration, a lack of positioning while we’re attacking and it hurt the team.”
A return home Wednesday followed by a game at Colorado on Saturday can perhaps provide a respite, but only if Crew SC limits its mistakes.
Seattle, coming off two straight wins, is 1-4-2 on the road this season. Colorado has scored just 10 goals in 12 games but has won two straight at home.
“If things aren’t going well, we have to come together and fix things because there is no one who is going to fix it for us except us,” Mensah said. “We just need to raise our games and keep working and correct it.”
On the attack
Through 14 games, Crew SC is sixth in the Eastern Conference with 20 goals scored.
Crew SC was shut out for the third time Friday, but the 5-0 loss was the first time this season in which the Crew finished without a shot on goal. In a 1-0 loss to Chicago on April 8, Crew SC had three shots on target. It managed two April 22 in a 2-0 loss to the New York Red Bulls.
“They played an excellent game. An excellent game,” Berhalter said of Toronto’s defense. “Give their coaching staff credit, give (coach) Greg Vanney credit for drawing up a good game plan based on counterattacking and based on absorbing pressure. They did a great job of denying shots and getting in the way and battling and fighting and that’s the effort that you need to win games.”