It could be hard for Columbus Crew SC’s fans not to feel discouraged after the team’s recent form as the Black & Gold have won just one of their last eight Major League Soccer matches, but the mood in the team’s locker room certainly has a different tone.
According to head coach Gregg Berhalter and some of the players, if the team’s most recent results didn’t help in Columbus’ pursue for a playoff spot, they showed the Crew is not far behind some of the top teams in the league right now.
Last Saturday’s match against New York City FC was a good example of that as the Black & Gold controlled a huge portion of the game against an opponent who had won nine of its 10 home matches this season, but were punished by a couple of defensive mistakes in the end and left Yankee Stadium empty-handed and frustrated. But not entirely.
“The performance was acceptable, the result wasn’t,” Berhalter said about last Saturday’s game. “Not too many teams go to New York and dominate them like that and cause them to lose their shape like that and create that many opportunities. You can take it two ways. You can be disheartened or you can gain confidence. We’re trying to use this performance to help us gain confidence.”
Columbus has played some of the strongest teams in the league in the last couple of months as the Black & Gold measured up against NYCFC, Los Angeles Football Club, the New York Red Bulls and Atlanta United, all within the last 40 days.
If the Crew didn’t take some much-needed points from most of these games, it took something equally as valuable in Berhalter’s opinion, which is a fair assessment of the team’s current state as the regular season enters its second half.
“Overall I think we’ve come out of this stretch saying ‘Okay, we know exactly where we stand right now,’” the coach added. “We’re not an elite team, yet. That’s what we showed. We weren’t able to go to some of these environments and beat strong teams, but we showed enough to show that we can get there. I don’t think in any of the games the result was too far away. We can get there, it’s just a matter of building and improving.”
Inside the locker room, the feeling is the same. The results didn’t go Crew SC’s way, but there were several positives to be taken from the recent games, especially the one against NYCFC.
For captain Wil Trapp, despite the adverse result, the even match against the second-place team in the Eastern Conference showed that with some minor tweaks the Black & Gold could be ready to compete against anyone in the league.
“In the first half and the majority of the second half we were playing the way we wanted to play, we were getting chances,” he recalled. ”It’s just the small details of can we score goals, can we keep goals out. But we can live with those mistakes knowing that the progress and the focus have been good. The approach has been good and the performances are starting to lean that way.”
This Saturday, Columbus will have an opportunity to translate its decent performances in results as the team hosts a faltering Orlando City side at MAPFRE Stadium. After that, the Crew will face Atlanta, NYCFC and the Red Bulls all again in a little over a month.
So, what does this teams needs to turn the corner and start collecting points again this weekend?
“It’s execution,” Trapp stated. “We tend to go through lows in the season where everyone is still trying to figure out their best run of form. And I think we are at that moment right now. We’re just trying to get everyone, all 11 guys on the field and all 18 on the roster, on game days to be executing at their highest level.”
“I think we just need to be sharper in both penalty boxes. That will tip the scale for us, I believe this, because we aren’t going to be giving up goals and we’re going to be scoring goals.”