Columbus Crew Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter said he wants to make Columbus Crew Stadium a fortress for his team, yet three games into the home portion of the season the Crew are yet to do so.
A dramatic 1-1 draw with Eastern Conference rivals D.C. United on Saturday put the Black and Gold at 1-1-1 on the season in their friendly confines. It appears there is much work to be done.
In the victory, Columbus entertained the fans for a half, taking a 2-0 lead into the locker room. The team had to hang on in the second half as the Philadelphia Union pushed forward and cut the lead in half. Toronto FC came in and scored an early goal, allowing the Reds to sit back and force the Crew wide on their way to a road victory.
The Black and Gold fell behind again at home against United and the road team attempted to replicate Toronto's success.
After the most recent game, Berhalter expressed his frustration with a second consecutive poor showing at home.
"I think our game wasn't on today and I'm disappointed in that more than anything," he said. "We were looking forward to playing a great game and really putting them under pressure."
D.C. came in with a game plan and executed it and if it weren't for the late-game heroics of Wil Trapp and Hector Jimenez, the Black and Red would have walked out of Crew Stadium with three points.
"They had a good game plan," Berhalter said. "They wanted to press us, they wanted to disrupt our rhythm and, at times, it didn't disrupt us, but at times it did, and it affected us."
It wasn't as if United dominated the game; in fact, the opposite was true. The Black and Gold had more than 60% of the possession, completed more passes, and created more chances on the night, yet failed to break through until the final seconds of the match.
They say stats can lie, but sometimes they just don't make sense.
"I don't think there's always an explanation," Berhalter said of the game.
"Ideally when you have a game plan, you want to go out, score in the first 10 minutes, you want to score in the next 10 minutes, and you want everything to go perfect. But, I don't know if it wasn't going to plan. We let up a goal against the run of play in my eyes, then, all of a sudden, it's fasten your seat belts."
But Berhalter and his team do not believe it's all doom and gloom. After going down early and playing the final 10 minutes a man down - Bernardo Anor was issued a red card for a two-footed tackle - the team showed heart in front of the home fans to get something out of the game.
"I'm very proud with how they fought in this game and they didn't give up, and that's great," Berhalter said.
"A result in that game was looking grim, and they were really tight and defensive oriented and we went down a man. But, the guys didn't quit and I commend them on that. I said we have to get better, but that effort not to give up in that game and get something out of that game, to me, was spectacular."
That optimistic attitude seemed to be infectious in the locker room, as players were upbeat after getting the late result.
"What I like the most is that our team didn't back down," Jimenez said. "Even though we were down a man, we kept going forward and luckily we were able to get that goal and a point.
"It shows a lot about the team's character. We didn't have a great start again going down 1-0. I love that we took the challenge, and didn't back down from the physical game that was going on. I am really proud of the team, and hopefully a game like this will carry us on throughout the season."
A second consecutive tie extends the Crew's winless streak to three games after beginning the season 3-0 and despite the excitement, Berhalter knows this team must get better to build the fortress.
"We have to improve, and we have to get sharper, we have to be more precise," he said. "We will and that's why you develop a team."