Q&A: Defense hitting stride down the stretch

Fresh off his 11th shutout of the season, goalkeeper Steve Cronin talks about the team’s recent surge defensively with five shutouts in the last six games, the backline’s recent performance against Carolina and facing another high-powered offense this weekend.
The team is on a seven-game unbeaten streak, and certainly supporting that run has been strong defensive play, with five shutouts in the last seven games. What seems to be clicking right now for backline?
 
Steve Cronin: We have a great mentality right now. A big part of being a great team is having a great defense. This allows the attacking players the freedom to take risks and score goals. Goalkeepers, the backline and holding midfielders take a lot of pride in not allowing goals. We have a deep team and a lot of deserving guys have had the opportunity to share in our recent success, including Matt Pyzdrowski getting his first shutout in Minnesota. We have been working well together lately and that has translated into good results recently week in and week out.
 
We picked up another shutout last weekend against Carolina, despite facing 16 shots. Looking back on the match, how important of a test was that game as we head into final games of the regular season and then playoffs?
 
SC: Carolina is a good team that will be in the playoffs. If the season ended today we would be facing them in the first round, so the result we got last weekend with a tie on the road and a shutout is a great confidence boost for us.
 
The team has recorded three straight shutouts. During this string, you became the first goalkeeper in modern-franchise history to post back-to-back 10+ shutout seasons. That’s quite an accomplishment.

SC: I had no idea. I have been really fortunate to play with a couple of great defenses over the last two seasons. This is all the more reason to be confident heading into the last few regular-season games and the playoffs.
 
Looking ahead to this weekend, we face Puerto Rico – another team fighting for a playoff spot, with a high-powered offense. While half of our current unbeaten streak has come on the road, what will be some key points to pulling out another result on the road?
 
SC: We played them really well at home a couple weeks ago. It took 90 minutes of effort to get a 1-0 win against them and I am sure it will be no different in Puerto Rico. They have some great individual players on their team and they play well at home. It will be a challenge, but I have to say that at this point our team is ready for anything.