The Columbus Crew stepped on the pitch Saturday evening just under 70 hours after they left the field in Houston. A Sunday match on the road against Sporting Kansas City in addition to the Wednesday match made the Black and Gold a tired club.
"First of all, the guys are running on fumes," head coach Gregg Berhalter said after the 1-0 loss to the Vancouver Whitecaps that concluded which concluded a stretch of three games in seven days.
"You can see the difference, it was clear. [Vancouver] had a bunch of players that were fresh, running around and we didn't have it physically."
The Whitecaps had a midweek match as well in the Canadian Championship first leg, but used reserve players allowing them to remain fresh for the Saturday night encounter.
Berhatler did not have that luxury, playing an important Eastern Conference game on Wednesday, but did have the option of squad rotation.
"If I'm critical of anything, it might be my team selection of not rotating more guys and getting some fresh legs in there because to me that was clearly the difference," he said post game.
"I'll take responsibility for that. I think I should've put some fresh guys in and there are some guys who are clearly ready, and I gave the starters the benefit of the doubt. In this case, I think we should've gone with some fresh legs looking back on it."
Over the course of the three outings, the only changes made were forced. Wil Trapp was suspended for the Houston Dynamo game after receiving a red card on Sunday and Hector Jimenez picked up an injury. Both players were restored to the starting lineup against the Whitecaps.
Berhalter may have seen fatigue on the field, but the players were not putting the loss on the match congestion.
"I don't want to use that as an excuse," second half substitute Dominic Oduro said.
"I think other teams have also been playing the same routine. It's just a matter of trying to get back to our winning side. That is not excuse. We have a lot of guys to play. I don't think that's a factor."
Oduro, who played 141 minutes over the three game stretch, has been in and out of the starting lineup this season, but teammate Michael Parkhurst, who has played all 900 minutes for Columbus this season, didn't want to lay the blame on exhaustion either.
"We've all played three games in a week before and it's no excuse," the team captain said. "The ball is the fastest person out there, the fastest one out there, and we just didn't move it fast enough tonight."
Berhalter indicated that the staff had talks with the players about their tiredness before taking the field against Vancouver, but fell victim to players wanting to play.
"You rarely get players that are going to tell you, ‘no coach, I'm not ready,'" he said.
"I think we tried to have serious conversations, guys wanted to play. They wanted to make up for the game in Houston. Unfortunately, they didn't have it physically to be able to do that."
The Crew have a more normal schedule moving forward and get a week to rest and get ready for their next opponent. Berhalter said that rest and recovery will be the main focus this week in preparation for the Portland Timbers.
"A lot of guys played a lot of minutes in the past seven days, and it's about getting away from the game for a couple days and resting their bodies, healing their bodies," he said.
"You see some of the guys are banged up. That's the priority right now and then have a good week of training, a full week of training and go up to Portland and try to play a good game."
The Black and Gold do not face a similar stretch until mid-July when they play three games in eight days - coincidentally beginning with Kansas City and featuring another Canadian team - meaning they shouldn't have to worry about this type of fatigue.
What they do have to worry about getting results something the team is obviously focused on.
"We're gonna stay the course," Parkhurst said. "We have to keep the confidence, that's the only way we're going to turn the ship around."