Crew hit the skids at worst possible time

History is repeating itself for Warzycha's men after '09 slide

SEATTLE – For the second straight year manager Robert
Warzycha and his Columbus Crew have their work cut out for them, as they hit
their roughest patch of the season at the worst possible time.

Less than 72 hours after falling off the top of the Eastern
Conference for the first time in months, the Crew dropped a hard-fought 2-1
result in the final of the US Open Cup on Tuesday night.


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They have also yet to qualify for the quarterfinals of the
CONCACAF Champions League with a road trip in Trinidad left in the group stage.

Their congested schedule next takes them to Toyota Park to
face the Chicago Fire in a Friday night match that Columbus need to turn their season around (9 p.m. ET).

“We have to focus on the league and playoffs,” Warzycha
said. “But I think they’re mentally strong and we’re going to see a good team
on Friday against Chicago.”

Warzycha said he was happy with his side’s performance in
Tuesday’s USOC final, especially from a tactical standpoint. He credited his
team for limiting Seattle’s chances and called the Sounders’ second and
decisive goal in the 66th minute a “lucky” play that “came from

“I wish Robbie [Rogers] would score a goal instead of the
crossbar in the end [85th minute],” Warzycha said of his club’s best
chance to equalize. “Sometimes you need some luck, and we didn’t have any

After a scoreless home tie against the Earthquakes on Saturday, in
which they could not convert on numerous chances, the Crew desperately need the
tide to turn. Friday’s match in Chicago could represent a turning point to get
the ship righted with only three league matches remaining before the start of
the MLS Cup Playoffs. 

What’s worse is that memories of 2009 are beginning to creep
in. The Crew’s talismanic Argentine Guillermo Barros Schelotto pointed out that
the team hit a similar skid at the end of last season. In fact, the Crew won
just one of their last seven matches in all competitions after Oct. 1 last year, and this year they're currently winless in their last six matches across all

“Sometimes you can’t pick how you want to finish,” Schelotto
said. “You get to the end of the season the best way you can. We need to work
harder and touch up a few things … The only way we can get back on the winning
track is by getting results and playing well.”

What they have going for them is that their final four matches before the end of the regular season involve three against Eastern Conference teams  out of contention or on the verge of postseason elimination. Their last Champions League group match in Trinidad also features an opponent in Joe Public with nothing to play for other than pride.

“I don’t think anybody is panicking,” goalkeeper Andy
Grunenbaum said. “We‘ve been on a downward spiral a little bit but it only
takes one game and we’ve got a game on Friday to turn it around.”