Two weeks ago, Columbus Crew SC fans were disappointed with a 2-0 loss on the road to D.C. United. Last week, there was euphoria after the Black and Gold defeated the Seattle Sounders at home, and looked good doing it.
The pendulum swung back to disappointment after last night's 2-0 loss on the road again, this time to the San Jose Earthquakes. They say you can learn more from a loss than a win, so let's see what there was to take away from this performance.
That was the Mohammed Saeid's Worst Game in a Crew SC Uniform
The red card, or two yellow cards, was bad. It put the team in a tough spot and ultimately made it too difficult to hang with the Earthquakes in the second half, but that was only the start of it.
Saeid is an aggressive player who toes the line of legal and illegal. I've been saying for the last few weeks that he grabs and tugs quite a bit and that's what earned him the first yellow card. Those cards are going to happen when he plays, he just has to make sure it doesn't happen twice in a game again.
Red card or not, Saeid was not on his game Saturday night. He made only two tackles in 33 minutes and wasn't good in possession. For a guy who has been so good in Wil Trapp's absence, the bar is set very high and he did not live up to it while on the field.
With Trapp likely still out next week, head coach Gregg Berhalter has a tough decision to make on who fills in while Saeid is suspended.
We're Seeing Two Crew SC Teams this Year
When the Black and Gold are at home, the team may be the best in MLS. The offense flows, the defense plays hard and gets in good positions and, most importantly, they get results.
On the road, it's an entirely different story. For whatever reason, this team can't reach the same level away from MAPFRE Stadium as they do in front of the home fans. Berhalter has mentioned several times that it's just circumstantial, but we're beginning to see a pattern.
San Jose came out and pressed Columbus and Crew SC didn't do anything to change that. They created chances on the counter, but once again struggled to finish on the road. After the red card, things seemed better until half, but the Black and Gold were clearly the inferior team in the second half.
Going into the match, it looked like this would be the game to get the side's first road win of the season. Now there are even more questions to be asked of Crew SC.
Columbus Had a Pipa Problem
There's no question that Federico Higuain is the best player on the team and one of the best in the league, but on nights when it isn't there for him, it hurts Crew SC. Last night, Pipa was all over the field, but not in the good way. He dropped back too far to get the ball and was not available offensively. Yes, the red card changed his role, but Higuain was not the creator you saw against Seattle.
The biggest issue is that he remained on the field for the full match. No player should be guaranteed 90 minutes each week and it felt like Higuain was. Sure, taking him out would frustrate him because he's a competitor, but it also could have given the Black and Gold a better option on the night.
Ben Speas wasn't on the bench, so the only option would have been Kristinn Steindorsson - who did come in for Finlay - but that would have been one of my changes early in the second half after allowing the two goals.
The First Cut is the Deepest
It's been mentioned time and time again. Crew SC are much better when they score the opening goal of the game; their record when doing so speaks for itself. The players know it, the coaches know it, and the fans know it, yet there was a lackadaisical approach from the team to start the game.
It wasn't until eight and a half minutes into the match that the offense really started to create something, which is too long when you are so dependent on an opening goal.
This may go back to the home and away issue, as the players seem to come out much more fired up at MAPFRE. Credit the Crew SC fans for helping to juice the team at home, but Berhalter and his players are going to need to figure out how to come out with the same intensity in every game.
The Depth is Being Tested
Berhalter spoke frequently in the offseason about wanting to have more quality depth on this team in 2015. His signings backed up this talk and now the depth is getting tested.
Last night, the Black and Gold dealt with missing Wil Trapp for the six consecutive game and Hernan Grana, who is no longer with the team. Waylon Francis, Emanuel Pogatetz, and Justin Meram have all missed time as well, but the players who have filled in have done a great job.
Despite the poor performance last night, Saeid has been very good, stepping into a tough roll to play. Jimenez helped Crew SC not miss a beat when Grana was too homesick to remain with Columbus. Tyson Wahl has played well in limited minutes, as has Steindorsson and Chris Klute.
Throughout the course of a season, a team is going to have its depth tested and Columbus is passing that test early on. The minutes distribution early in the season could be a good thing come later in the year when guys are a bit fresher and the backups have game experience.
It's too Early to Panic
Fans certainly have a right to be disappointed with what they've seen from this team on the road, especially in the last two games away from MAPFRE Stadium, but the season is still young.
Despite not winning on the road yet, Crew SC got points in Vancouver and New England, two of the more difficult places to play. The New York Red Bulls are the only team the Black and Gold have lost to that aren't currently in a playoff position.
Crew SC have played 10 games, which means there are 24 matches remaining. We have seen how good this team can be when things are clicking, they just need to find a way to do it consistently.
Let's remember where the Black and Gold were at this point a year ago, 3-4-3 with 12 points, and they finished the season on 52 points and in the playoffs. This year's team is already ahead of that pace and playing much better in the early portion of the year.
The players believe in what they are doing and once it all starts going right, this team could be scary good.