No one involved with the Columbus Crew SC organization - player, coach, or fan - is over last year's 2-1 MLS Cup Final loss to the Portland Timbers. Even with the 2016 season set to kickoff this weekend, the players aren't hiding that disappointment still hangs around.
"I don't even know if I'm over it," winger Justin Meram said this week. "I know we talk about it like, ‘How nice would be to go into this year defending it?'"
"Still coping," midfielder Ethan Finlay said. "It's part of life. You never know how many finals you'll get to play in."
The defeat at MAPFRE Stadium, which will be exactly three months from when Crew SC kicks off the new season on Sunday, is still fresh in players' minds, but they know they can't let that get in the way of this year.
"It's the first game of the season," Meram said. "We can't get all hyped up about everything going on. We've got to put last year behind us, focus on the game, focus on the opponent."
The task of putting last year behind them becomes more difficult because the opponent is the Timbers, the same team that beat the Black & Gold on Dec. 6 to win MLS Cup.
"There's a little bit extra motivation in the fact that you're going to see some guys that took something away, something that you wanted," Finlay said. "But at the same time you have to realize it's going to be a long season and you don't want to just go in there balls to the walls and let the butterflies get the best of you."
While fans are hoping to see their team get revenge over Portland for the championship loss, this is not the approach of the players.
"I think you just have to realize that it's a new season," Finlay said. "If you beat them, you're not going to win the Cup. So revenge, it is what it is."
"It doesn't matter what happens on Sunday, it won't change what happened the last game of the season last year," forward Kei Kamara added.
What those two players said is true. No matter the score of Sunday's match, nothing is going to change the loss. Portland will still be the defending champions and Crew SC still has 33 more games to play in the 2016 season.
"It is game day one," head coach Gregg Berhalter said. "It means the same as every other game day, right? One through 34.
"Our last game happened to be Portland and losing to them in the MLS Cup Final was painful. At the end of the day it's still about how we can perform and we know it's going to be a good environment, we know it's going to be a hostile environment, so it's about performing."
The Black & Gold will get to test themselves early going against the defending champions. As club captain and defender Michael Parkhurst said, "everybody wants to beat the best," and right now that is the Timbers.
Like every year for a new champion, there will be celebratory festivities going on at Providence Park on Sunday. While those will be hard to take in for someone like Kamara, who sat on the MAFRE Stadium field and watched Portland celebrate in December, he knows all that matter is this game and not the past.
"As long as they don't wear their rings and play the first game of the season, I think we'll be all good," he said.
"To them, it's kind of a celebration to opening their season off and to us, we can't really say it's a revenge, we want to beat them because it doesn't mean anything. We just have to go into it, just be ready for to kick off the new season."