Some would say not much has gone Columbus Crew SC’s way this season.
The Black & Gold sit in ninth place in the Eastern Conference with only 19 points through 21 matches played. Crew SC has not won a match since May 28, a string of nine games without a victory.
This should be a recipe for disaster for a club that made it to the MLS Cup Final a year ago, but somehow Columbus is not out of the playoff race with 13 contests remaining.
"I told the guys today, ‘We don’t feel sorry for ourselves,’" head coach Gregg Berhalter said on Monday. "This is about accepting our situation and being determined to get out of it. And that’s what it’s about."
Following that last win, Crew SC was just two points out of the playoffs in the East. While the Black & Gold are now seven back, that mark has miraculously not increased.
It seemed likely Columbus would lose ground this past weekend while the team got some time off from game action. But Orlando City SC lost 3-1 at home to the Seattle Sounders and the New England Revolution dropped a 4-1 affair to Toronto FC, the best possible results for Crew SC as they remain at that seven point gap
"It seems like no one towards the bottom of the East wants to lock up a playoff spot early," captain Michael Parkhurst said.
Before a recent important stretch of three consecutive home games, the Black & Gold sat just five points back of the final playoff spot. A week and a half and three draws later and Columbus had only fallen two points further behind the pack.
"It’s a league of extreme parity and you can’t predict the results in this league," head coach Gregg Berhalter said. "I’ve been telling you guys that we’re close and the games haven’t been terrible; some of them have been okay."
This is not to say that Berhalter is happy with all the results. The head coach admits that performances like recent losses to the Revolution and Toronto left the team "extremely disappointed," but the opportunity for the playoffs remains.
"We’ve created enough chances and we can win," Berhalter said with confidence. "We can beat any team in this league. It’s just about doing it. That’s the big what if. If we win a game, what happens? Can we get back into it and I think we can."
Now it’s about getting the job done.
This is nothing new for Columbus. In 2014, the first year of Berhalter’s tenure, Crew SC had two stretches of fives games without a win before losing only two of its final 11 matches. Last season, on the way to the Final, the Black & Gold went a month and a half between victories.
This does not excuse or even justify the poor run of form, but it does show the turnaround this club can make, especially with all this help.
With the teams around Crew SC struggling as well, the players know it’s time to take advantage of that.
"A lot of the results in the Eastern Conference went our way," midfielder Wil Trapp said of the weekend.
"It’s only fortunate if we capitalize on it... We’ve just got to start winning games."
It’s as simple as that.