With the excitement building toward the team’s second MLS season, it’s easy to get caught up in results as the team competes in preseason friendlies. But Head Coach Tata Martino has been through quite a few preseasons, and he’s preaching patience.

“Last preseason, against the same team, the same thing happened to us,” he said through a translator. “We just need more time together. From my perspective, there were a lot of positive things that we did tonight. There were also some negative things we have to improve on, especially if we’re playing a good team like Columbus. But we’re doing okay.”

While the scoreline wasn’t what the manager wanted, he said he was happy in how the new additions to the squad were growing into their roles with the team, and insisted there were positive signs of progress.

“We pressed very well for long periods against one of the best teams in the league at getting out of the press. Secondly, we maintained our intensity for the full 90 minutes. Thirdly, even though we were down 2-0 on the scoresheet, in the second half we didn’t allow them to create any chances. Their goals came off of our own mistakes tonight.”

That’s not to say there’s nothing to improve, and Martino has his eyes on one specific aspect as they move out of the pure physical preparation and more into the technical and tactical side of preseason.

“What we should work on is capitalizing on our chances in the final third of the field,” he said. “There were a number of occasions tonight where we got into the final third of the field but we need to work on making the right final pass or the right decision to solve that area.”

“We have to keep progressing, little by little,” added Leandro González Pirez. “It’s just the second game of the preseason, and we’re just getting started. The preseason so far was mostly based around physical training. We’re just starting to get into more stuff with the ball so I think we’ll be fine.”

Pirez’s hunger to improve was echoed by Julian Gressel, who said this will be a valuable night in addressing how to make the team better going into the regular season.

“You can tell that it’s still early for us,” said the German midfielder. “We haven’t played too many games and those games help a lot just to move in the right direction and move forward, take the next step and those little thing will come.”

But make no mistake: the team is fully aware of what needs to be improved and is motivated to get it right in time for the regular season.

“We have to get into a rhythm where we want to win games,” Gressel said. “We want to win. I think ultimately it’s a result-driven game and we want to be ready to win come the first game against Houston.”

The team now turns its attention to Minnesota United and the Charleston Battery, who they’ll face in the final rounds of the Carolina Challenge Cup. They’ll then head on the road to take on the Houston Dynamo in the first match of the regular season before making their home debut at Mercedes-Benz Stadium against D.C United on March 11th. Tickets for that match are still available, make sure you’ve reserved your spot here.