Understandably, the Black & Gold aren't happy following the final whistle of Saturday's 4-2 defeat to the New England Revolution in the first leg of the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
"I want to give a lot of credit to New England," said Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter. "They had a really good game. They stayed very compact defensively, they were able to counter, they were able to pressure us — they had a really good game. For us, I think as we were chasing the game, we opened up a lot of space. As we opened up a lot of space, you put defenders in uncomfortable positions, and it’s how you handle those situations. Today, more often than not, we made the wrong decision in how we are going to deal with that situation, and it puts you in a hole."
But if there's a sense of hope, it was created courtesy of Federico Higuain's stoppage-time Panenka penalty. A spectacular finish in its own right, the goal gives the Crew an increased chance of advancing following the second leg, which is set to be played at Gillette Stadium next Sunday. Rather than needing a four-goal shutout, Columbus can go through with a 3-0 victory or any two goal win in which it scores at least four goals.
Of course, the 3-0 win is the more likely scenario should the Black & Gold advance. Scoring three on the road won't be easy, but it's something the Crew has done before: four times this season (March 8 at D.C. United, May 17 at Portland, October 11 at Philadelphia and October 19 at New York). It's not an easy task, but it's certainly feasible.
"We have a shot going back there," said Steve Clark. "They certainly have the upper hand obviously, but it’s not over."
"Three goals, three-to-nothing: that’s the goal," added Ethan Finlay. "Nothing else is acceptable. We won’t be thinking about anything else. We know the task at hand and they do too. You will probably see them come out a bit more defensive and that’s understandable. They came in here and they did their job."
For now, the challenge is to stay optimistic and positive throughout the week of training. They say that it's a positive for athletes to have a bad short-term memory in some instances; this is an optimal time for the Crew to invoke that old cliche.
As Finlay said, he and his teammates won't be thinking about anything else this week other than getting that three-to-nothing result.