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The Most Important Week for Columbus Crew SC is Right Now

Two wins this week could change the perception on the Black & Gold.

It’s now or never for Columbus Crew SC.

"It’s a really important week for this group and for this team," winger Ethan Finlay said on Monday. "It’s getting to a point in the season where we need to start turning things around and start adding points to our total."

The Black & Gold have three wins in 2016. Columbus has 16 points through 17 games. For a team that has reached the playoffs in each of the last two seasons and was an MLS Cup Finalist a year ago, this simply isn’t good enough.

The focus to save this season is on Wednesday when Eastern Conference rivals Toronto FC come to MAPFRE Stadium.

"Everything’s got to be put into this game on Wednesday to win," forward Ola Kamara said. "When you’re in a tough spot like now, we just have to be ready for that moment on Wednesday and then you can get that confidence to win also on Saturday."

Following Wednesday’s game is another home contest against another Eastern foe, D.C. United on the weekend.

"With two home games, this is a great opportunity," Finlay said. "It’s not going to be easy, but it’s against two Eastern Conference opponents that we’re more than capable of beating and fully expect to get six points out of these next two."

TFC sits in fifth place in the East with 23 points through 17 games. United is two points back of Toronto having played one more match than the Reds and Crew SC. The two have a combined 13 losses on the year, which means they are both beatable if Columbus can get things right.

What would that require?

"A good, solid performance," head coach Gregg Berhalter said. "A good team performance. That’s important. That’s going to be our focus is putting in a good, solid shift in all positions on the field."

Through the 17 matches this year, the Black & Gold have infrequently put in a team performance and are yet to have all 11 players complete for 90 minutes. This has resulted in wins becoming ties and ties becoming losses.

"There’s certain moments in games where guys take a play off and that we need to look at," Berhalter said, "and we need to say, ‘Is it because we’re extremely fatigued? Is it because of lack of concentration? Is it because we think our teammates are going to cover up for us? What’s the reason? Let’s address and let’s correct it.’"

The answers to the question ‘Why aren’t Crew SC getting the results?’ is not simple. If it were, the team wouldn’t be in the position that it is in. Although Finlay doesn’t have the answers, the midfielder does have an idea what might help turn things around.

"I just think it goes down to, we’ve got to have grit, everyone, for 90 minutes," he said. "It’s little mental lapses that we have, whether it’s up front, whether it’s in the back that are costing us games. It’s the little things. It’s these little, little details. There’s not much that is separating us from being above the red line and having multiple wins verses where we’re at right now."

What is separating the Black & Gold from a playoff spot right now is six points. If Columbus wins both of this week’s games there’s a good chance that are right in the middle of the race again. While back-to-back victories would be ideal, it all starts with three points on Wednesday.

"It certainly gives you confidence, I’ll be the first one to say that," Berhalter said of the importance of getting a win right now. "We’re building this group. We feel like we’re close. We feel like some of the performances have been really close to what we’re looking for."

With the team slowly getting healthy, the belief remains that the season can be turned around. But if that is going to happen, there is no time to rest in a week with heavy match congestion and essentially "the time is now."

"This is what the mentality needs to be," Finlay said.

"We’ve got to flip a switch and you’ve got to realize if we don’t put the work in now that October’s going to come quicker than we want it to and we’re going to be at home and that’s not where we want to be. I know it’s not where I want to be and I know it’s not where this club expects to be."