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Crew using disappointing FC Cincinnati result as fuel for Toronto FC matchup

There’s no time to rest for the Black & Gold.

MLS: FC Cincinnati at Columbus Crew SC Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

Last week was an emotional roller coaster for Columbus Crew SC.

The Black & Gold spent the days leading up to the weekend preparing for the first Major League Soccer derby against new in-state rivals FC Cincinnati. The pre-match talk was all about getting a result against MLS’s last-place team as Columbus pushes for a playoff spot. The fans, who made up the largest regular season crowd at MAPFRE Stadium since 2015, created a spectacular environment before the contest kicked off.

But then the Crew conceded two goals in the first 30 minutes and were shellshocked. The Black & Gold fought back, however, scoring a penalty kick just before halftime and a wonder-strike from Pedro Santos just after the hour mark, but couldn’t find the winner despite some clear-cut chances and settled for a 2-2 draw that the players admitted felt more like a loss.

Despite the disappointing result and the range of emotions felt by Columbus, the Crew has more games to play and that includes this weekend against another Eastern Conference rival, Toronto FC. Given that the Black & Gold sit seven points outside the MLS Cup playoffs with eight games to play, there’s no time dwell on what happened against Cincinnati.

“Our positioning in the table doesn’t allow us to sit and relax at all,” club captain Wil Trapp told Massive Report this week. “If anything, it allows you to compartmentalize the game, learn from it and then move on quickly. Then you prepare for what is another home game in which we need to win.”

Following the draw on the weekend, head coach Caleb Porter elected to take a glass-half-full approach postgame and spin what his team did in the match — coming back from two goals down to get a result — as a positive. He elected to go with a similar demeanor this week as he prepares his side for Toronto.

“It wasn’t like we lost confidence, which is good,” Porter said. “I think we were left with a little bit of wanting more and that edge of knowing that that was there for the taking. So in some ways, you like that because there will be a chip and an edge when the guy came back to work on Wednesday because we gave them two days off.”

It was clear to anyone who watched the team train this week that there was something a little extra in their play. The Crew went into last Saturday’s game respecting Cincinnati but also expecting a win. When the final whistle blew, the Black & Gold felt they were the better team in the match and deserved a winner.

Columbus used those feelings to keep the intensity high in training and will carry that motivation into the Trillium Cup game against TFC this weekend.

“The fire in training, the intensity, especially this last day, I think has been very sharp,” Trapp said. “And then it’s always good to see guys that contributed last game that might be playing this game too and maybe expanding their role off the bench or whatever it may be.”

While the draw was disappointing in the moment given Cincinnati’s poor form this year and the chances the Crew created, the result was not a loss, something Porter made clear to his team. Unlike most of the summer, the Black & Gold are getting results.

“We’re only going to get better,” forward Gyasi Zardes said this week. “The last five games, unbeaten. It’s only positive from here. We have to keep working hard and doing what we’re doing and hope we get more results.”

A change has clearly occurred for Columbus. Over the 10-game winless streak from mid-May to mid-July, the Crew simply hoped for a tie after two extended losing streaks. On Saturday, there was major disappointment after a two-goal comeback for a draw.

But the Black & Gold can’t focus on what happened last weekend, and the team is not. Instead, the players and staff are using their frustration to make sure they get a result against a team seven points ahead of them in the standings on Saturday.

“We started watching film on Toronto and we know they’re a great team but we also know this is a perfect opportunity to capitalize and get points against a team that is above us in the table,” Zardes said. “So I’m really looking forward to this game and looking forward to (the rest of the week of training) with the coaches, just to see what they have prepared for us.”