Three games in seven days was always going to be tough on the Columbus Crew, but three losses in those games was not supposed to be in the cards.
That is the reality for the Black and Gold after Saturday's 1-0 defeat at the hands of the Vancouver Whitecaps - a team that had not won a road game since October.
Head coach Gregg Berhalter elected to stick with his starters despite the match congestion, only reinserting the previously suspended Wil Trapp and injured Hector Jimenez back in the midfield.
The Whitecaps, who also played a midweek match but played mostly young players and reserves, looked the fresher of the side throughout the match.
This was evident from the kickoff as Vancouver generated a free kick and a corner in quick succession in the opening three minutes. The Whitecaps also took advantage of a poor giveaway at the back by captain Michael Parkhurst, but the one-on-one effort went wide and the game remained scoreless.
After weathering the storm of the opening 10 minutes, the Crew began to control the proceedings. Hector Jimenez got in behind the Vancouver defense, but his low cross was unable to find an attacker. Just minutes later, defender Josh Williams played a ball in behind the defense that narrowly missed forward Jairo Arrieta.
The Whitecaps continued to put pressure on Columbus and their hard work paid off in the 37th minutes. Forward Erik Hurtado won a long ball from goalkeeper David Ousted, took a nifty touch with his right foot before curling a left-footed effort past Steve Clark from the top of the penalty area for his first goal of the season.
The Crew, who conceded first for the third game in a row, looked for an equalizer before half. Arrieta appeared to be in on goal in the 44th minute after shrugging off center back Jay DeMerit, but the official called the play back, whistling a foul on the Columbus striker.
The second half started with a bang, as both teams created early opportunities.
Another giveaway by the Crew defense gave midfielder Kekuta Manneh a shot from long range that just went wide of the post.
Two minutes later, Columbus halftime substitute Justin Meram played a lovely switched ball to Hector Jimenez on the right flank. The winger cut the ball in towards the 18-yard box before having a right-footed crack that forced a save from Ousted.
In the 55th minute, Jimenez drew a dangerous free kick outside the Whitecaps' 18. Federico Higuain's set piece found the head of a rising Giancarlo Gonzalez, but the defenders effort flew harmlessly over the crossbar.
The Black and Gold pushed forward as the game wore on, and Trapp came closest to equalizing the score with a shot from the top of the box that just missed the post.
Vancouver looked to get a second goal to ice the match on the counter and nearly did so on a couple of occasions. The best of these came from substitute Omar Salgado, who beat the Crew defense and chipped the ball over Clark, but couldn't get the shot on frame.
Three minutes of stoppage time came and went and the Black and Gold finished their third consecutive game without a win or a goal.
The frustrated Crew will look to get rest this week before heading to the Pacific Northwest for a Saturday night encounter with the Portland Timbers.