Eight games in to Columbus Crew SC's Major League Soccer season and it has been about the little things. When Columbus does them, they look like world-beaters, but when they don't, disappointing results tend to happen.
After two great home performances, Crew SC fell to D.C. United 2-0 on the road Saturday night. Once again, it was the little things that let them down.
"It's about those small moments and in those small moments we didn't execute," Black and Gold head coach Gregg Berhalter told those gathered after the match, "They had the corner kick they scored on and our corner kick they scored on. It's a good lesson. D.C. is a very good team but I feel that we have to be sharper in those small moments."
United is a good team. The club is off to the best start in team history, despite missing several key players to start the season. The Black and Red are one of four teams with 17 points, tops in the league.
That tells one story. The other is that United came into this match with two straight home draws and five goals scored in four games at RFK Stadium. Those numbers didn't strike fear in Columbus heading into the match.
Once again, it was the little things and those were the things D.C. knew they could exploit.
"We wanted to make them feel uncomfortable, and I think we did that," United head coach Ben Olsen said of Crew SC. "We struck early on a counter and finished a set piece, areas we thought we could take advantage of, and it's good to see those pay off. I thought we defended well and were tough to break down."
Goals conceded can typically be attributed to mistakes, but it's become a glaring issue for the Black and Gold. Silly giveaways, bad tackles, and mental lapses are all part of the problem.
Take these things out of Columbus' games this year and the side begins the season with an opening draw in Houston. It's likely the New York Red Bulls don't leave MAPFRE Stadium with a win if things are cleaned up at the back and Crew SC might have even gotten out of Vancouver with a victory.
The Black and Gold dominated last Saturday's game in nearly ever department aside from the score sheet. 56.7 percent of the possession, a 14-10 advantage in shots, 38 crosses served. Yet it was the little moments, the counter attack, the inability to stay focused on a set piece, that ultimately gave United the 2-0 win.
The season is still young and, as Crew SC fans saw a year ago, there is plenty of time to clean up little mistakes.
Although they return home next week, things won't get much easier for the Black and Gold. The Seattle Sounders come to town and they are one of the more opportunistic teams in the league. Although they won't sit back and absorb pressure as D.C. did, they are even more dangerous on the counter and on set pieces.
After last week's debacle, Crew SC will want to return to winning ways at home, which hasn't been a problem recently. The focus this week will be on cleaning up those mistakes and earning three more points.
"I thought it was about the small moments and every play is important, every play matters, and that's what we need to focus on," Berhalter said. "We need to get the ball wide and we need to put it in front of the goal much quicker than we were in the first half."