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The Crew looks to ‘right the wrong,’ get back on track against Atlanta United

The two losses left the Black & Gold just under where they wanted to be in terms of points at the halfway mark of the regular season.

MLS: D.C. United at Columbus Crew SC Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

After back-to-back losses to New York City FC and D.C. United, the Columbus Crew know that the team has its backs against the wall. Following the 4-1 defeat at the hands of NYCFC just over a week ago, head coach Caleb Porter talked about how his team was traditionally pretty good at bouncing back after a loss. When that did not come against D.C. on Wednesday night, and allowing four goals again in a 4-2 loss at home, it left fans wondering what was going on with the squad.

Losing the game to City seemed to come out of nowhere, but it was the first loss of its kind this season. But dropping the game against D.C. resulted in a loss of home points Columbus could not afford to lose. These games first time since 2015 the Black & Gold have allowed eight goals in two consecutive matches, and the first time since 2016 that they allowed three or more goals in back-to-back contests.

“Our fans deserve a better performance,” said midfielder Marlon Hairston on Friday.

“(The last game) was a big blow, because it’s a home game,” Porter agreed. “So now we’ve got to make up for those points on the road.”

Porter chalked the recent losses up to individual moments amidst an overall decent performance.

Following the loss to D.C. Porter said, “I think for me when I look at the game, objectively we were up for it. The attackers were up for it all game. It’s just hard to win when you give up four goals in the manner that we did.”

Hairston says locker rooms can quickly get negative after two results in a row like the Crew just suffered, but that is not the case in this one.

“This is a championship team,” said Hairston. “They’ve been in tough situations last season, and they were able to bounce back and win. And we still have the same DNA this year with a bunch of guys from the championship squad last year.”

Being a championship team elevates expectations and brings the best out of every opponent, making the margin for error slim.

“We cannot take games off,” said captain Jonathan Mensah following Wednesday’s loss. “Being defending champions, every team is going to come at us really hard.”

Mensah took a lot of heat publicly for the loss, which he took in stride. He admitted he did not play well the last two games and stated it is his job as captain to set the tone for the team.

“We know we don’t need to panic,” Mensah said Wednesday. “We just need to stick to the game plan, we still have a good team we just need to clean some things up. I wasn’t good today, I know I wasn’t good in the previous game as well.”

Halfway through the Major League Soccer regular season, there’s no time to miss out on points. Porter says the first half of the season has been focused on getting in a good position for the second half and the playoff push.

After the two rough losses, Columbus is in seventh in the Eastern Conference with 24 points, but only five points back of second place. A run of form, like the Crew started to put together before the last couple of matches, could see the team climb back up the table.

“I’m confident these next 17 games. We’re going to have our full group which always helps,” said Porter.

Atlanta United is the next step in getting back on track. The Black & Gold got a huge road win against Atlanta 1-0 just two weeks ago, but midfielder Luis Diaz says the squad cannot rely on past results to carry the team through a second meeting.

“What we’re going to focus on is playing our game and doing other things well,” Diaz said.

There were positives for the Black & Gold on Wednesday, especially in the second half with the two-goal comeback, and that is something the Crew must carry into Saturday’s match to get back on track.

“We hope to right wrongs tomorrow,” Hairston said.