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Columbus Crew SC remaining positive on 2017 start

At 6-6-1, there’s two ways to view the Black & Gold’s beginning of the season.

MLS: New York City FC at Columbus Crew SC Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Tuesday wasn’t the most upbeat day at the EAS Training Ground.

Columbus Crew SC were back to practice for the first time after a 2-1 loss to the New England Revolution on Sunday where the visitors took an early lead, only to see it evaporate within 14 minutes.

“Obviously the loss was extremely disappointing,” club captain Wil Trapp said of the most recent defeat. “It’s a team that we know we could have beaten and should have beaten based on what we had throughout the game.”

Head coach Gregg Berhalter reiterated Trapp’s frustration with the most recent loss, that seems indicative of a trend.

Despite a bright start to the season, Crew SC once sat atop the Eastern Conference, Columbus has now lost five of its last seven after winning three in a row. In three of those five defeats, the Black & Gold sat in winning positions at one point in the game, including over the weekend.

“We never want to lose games and the games we have lost, we think we should have won,” Trapp admitted.

This recent slide, which has seen Crew SC fall to fifth place in the Eastern Conference, has led to concern that the team is sliding as Major League Soccer enters the summer months.

But focusing on the negative won’t help turn things around, at least that’s the outlook Berhalter is taking with his team.

“I don’t think it makes any sense to dwell on past results,” the head coach said. “I think you want to look at past performances to get better, but past results, that’s in the books. There’s no reason to do the point-counting game.

“I think if you put it in perspective, the leading team in the league has seven wins and we have six wins.”

Whether he knows it or not — Berhalter is adamant he is not on social media — Berhalter’s statement echoes that of team owner Anthony Precourt on Twitter.

So it’s a matter of how you look at it.

Yes, the Black & Gold have six wins, while MLS leaders Toronto FC, Columbus’ Friday opponent, have seven. TFC also went on a near record-setting winning streak, have only lost once — albeit to Crew SC — and have found a way to get points from games that maybe they should have not.

The Reds also boast the league’s third-best defense statistically and one of MLS’s most potent offenses. It is a deep team that is coming off an appearance in the MLS Cup Final and has felt no ill effects from losing that game last December.

Back to the positive side, the Black & Gold have already played Toronto twice this season, defeating TFC once and arguably should have won the second meeting as well. From the Columbus perspective, it shows that Crew SC can play with the best teams in MLS.

“What I would say is that we’re winning at the same rate as other teams in this league and we know we’re a good team,” Berhalter said. “It’s just about putting performances together that end up in victories.”

And the Black & Gold have done that. The three-game winning streak earlier in the season had fans excited about the prospects of what this team could do in 2017. It quickly put to rest fears of another rough season where Columbus won just eight games total a year ago.

But in today’s society, it’s all about what have you done for me lately, something that continues to become more apparent in the sports world.

“I was able to see it first hand after this last Cleveland Cavaliers game,” Berhalter said on Tuesday. “All of a sudden LeBron’s a different player. It’s funny because it’s sensationalism, not reality.”

If you don’t follow the NBA Playoffs, LeBron James had a poor performance in the Cavaliers’ game three loss to the Boston Celtics on Sunday and, despite an otherwise remarkable postseason, was raked over the coals by the national media for scoring only 11 points.

For Crew SC, this is the reality: the team sits in fifth place in the East despite a tough schedule to begin the year. Have there been points left on the table? Certainly, but the club has also won games it likely should have not (see two weeks ago in Montreal).

Are there reasons to be concerned? Yes. The Black & Gold’s performances have been inconsistent and results like Sunday’s against New England are disappointing and questionable.

Some people will look at this from the glass half full perspective, while others prefer a more negative outlook.

Crew SC was disappointed on Tuesday, but now it’s about putting the Revolution game in the past and putting the focus on the positives and improving.

“We’re about the (playoff) line,” Trapp said. “We have more wins now than pretty much all of last season for the most part. There’s plenty of positives and we’re not going to get wrapped up emotionally into the results. Like I said, it’s honesty in our objective thinking and how we look at the games.”