March 29. Game three.
A season that started with few expectations with a new - and relatively unknown - head coach taking over in Gregg Berhalter quickly turned into a year with potential after three wins for the best start in team history.
It appeared the Crew were playing a style of soccer that was not only exciting, but also generated results. Now Columbus has gone six games without a win and lost their second consecutive game Wednesday to the Houston Dynamo.
Berhalter and the players are committed to the system, but they have begun to see that this team is not ready to be frontrunners.
"We believe in ourselves, we're a strong team," Dominic Oduro told reporters after Wednesday's game.
"We just got to be strong in the attacking half. We had chances we just couldn't finish it"
It has been tough sledding for the Black and Gold offense of late. A second straight shutout against Houston means it's been 231 minutes since the Crew found the back of the net and 270 minutes since they scored from the run of play.
Columbus has conceded just over one goal a game during the winless streak, allowing two goals in the later portions of games when they were pushing numbers forwards.
The Crew's defense seems to be fine. The Black and Gold have a scoring problem.
"We knew that we had to keep getting the ball wide," Berhalter said of his offensive plan verse the Dynamo.
"We could get the ball in some dangerous positions if we did that. That was one of our focuses, on where our full backs are and how to get them to attack and people driving with the ball instead of passing it if they are thirty yards in front of them to bring an opponent to them, so we were focused on trying to open them up a little bit."
The consistent issue was the number of players in the box. Too frequently the wide player served a ball into the box with one or two attackers and plenty of defenders surrounding, even when pushing forward.
One issue here is not getting numbers into the box, which would allow for a greater scoring opportunity. Another is a lack of patience by the crosser, who served a ball far too quickly multiple times.
"That's something we have been working on," Oduro said.
"It's a little bit hard when you have teams again sitting a little bit back just waiting to counter you, but it's something we need to try and find a way to penetrate behind defenses. I think we can do it, I mean we hit the post today, there were some chances-the goalie made some great saves. We get in there we have some games to go and hopefully we get it right."
Teams are going to continue to put numbers behind the ball because it works against Columbus. Berhalter has stated that it is a way teams will play and his team must figure out how to concur this style.
The Crew are creating chances, but not always the best chances. Too frequently shots are coming from range or are not getting unleased at all when in good scoring position.
Berhalter has preached patience as Columbus takes time to adjust to a new system, but if goals don't come soon, something must be done.
The Whitecaps could provide a remedy to the Crew's scoring illness. Vancouver has conceded 12 goals in nine games this season and have faced 117 shots. The Black and Gold also return to Columbus Crew Stadium, where they have only been shutout once this season.
This is an opportunity for Jairo Arrieta, Federico Higuain, and Oduro to get something going offensively and get this team back on the right track.
If the scoring drought continues, the good feelings from the early season success will quickly fade and questions will start to emerge.