Columbus Crew SC’s recent form has frustrated even the most optimistic fans as the team has lost each of its last three matches in the 2018 Major League Soccer season, but the Black & Gold have survived through much more tumultuous waters not long ago.
In 2014, the first year under head coach Gregg Berhalter, the Crew started the season as hot as this year, with three straight wins over D.C. United, the Philadelphia Union and the Seattle Sounders.
After that, however, the momentum switched with the Black & Gold registering only one victory in the next 16 matches. In that period, the team struggled with three straight losses in setbacks against Sporting Kansas City, the Houston Dynamo and the Vancouver Whitecaps.
That was the last time Columbus lost three consectutive games.
The Crew, however, eventually overcame its bad moment to finish the regular season in third place in the Eastern Conference and advance to the playoffs for the first time in three years. To Berhalter, however, relating the two situations would be a stretch.
“It’s always different,” the head coach said. “We’ve been in streaks where we haven’t played well and we felt terrible about the games. There was anger and frustration. In 2016, we tied three home games in a row after leading all of them and it was terrible.
“In this particular case, we are definitely not happy with the results, but we feel like the performances haven’t been that bad. The guys are more hungry to do better than with their confidences hurt.”
Even though circumstances revolving around tough streaks are usually different, actions taken to handle them are oftentimes similar. Earlier this week, Berhalter hinted that he could make some changes to the team for this weekend’s match against the New England Revolution.
That was exactly the case four years ago, as the coach used 13 different starting lineups over the 16-matches period, playing 20 different players. Goalkeeper Steve Clark and midfielder Toni Tchani were the only players to start each of those matches.
A lot changed on the Black & Gold’s roster since 2014, but four players who were with the club at the time are still around. One of them is Hector Jimenez, who played in 12 of the 16 matches of that tough streak.
The versatile player, who was used as a winger and as a fullback in that season, believes that ups and downs are unavoidable and that remaining mentally strong is a factor that makes the difference on how teams react to unfavorable moments.
“I’ve been here for five years and sometimes you go through those streaks,” the veteran added. “It happens every year, it’s a tough league. The only thing you can do is try to keep the team and the locker room in a positive vibe. That’s how you get out of a situation like that. We’ll be fine. We are going to have everyone in a positive attitude and we’ll bounce back.”
In 2014, Crew SC’s reaction had the fingerprints of Federico Higuain, one of the other three players of the current roster to be with the club in that season – Wil Trapp and Josh Williams, who played for the New York City FC and Toronto FC before his return in 2017, are the other two.
In the match that ended the team’s losing streak, a 3-3 road tie with the Portland Timbers, the Argentinean had a brace and assisted Ethan Finlay for the other goal.
To Pipa, the longest-tenured player of the current roster being with Crew SC since 2012, the recipe to turn things around is as simple as his playing style.
“Honestly, we don’t feel we deserved to lose any of the three matches, but the fact is that we did,” Higuain commented. “So we need to keep working and improving. We believe in our work and on what we do here and we trust our system and our playing style. We had other bad moments in the past and we always got away by working and that’s what we want to do this weekend.”