Raising the bar higher makes the fall harder.
For almost three seasons, the Columbus Crew have been a part of many success stories. They have won the 2008 MLS Cup, the past two Supporters’ Shields and were the only league team to make the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Champions League last year.
Tuesday night in Seattle could have been another shining moment for the club, but a 2-1 loss to the Seattle Sounders in the final of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup left the Crew with an empty feeling.
“Expectations are always high for our team so we’re very disappointed,” midfielder Kevin Burns said. “If we had a bad year last year and come into this, right now we’d be happy even if with a loss.”
That culture of winning was developed by former head coach Sigi Schmid during a long and often painful period. Columbus missed the playoffs in his first two seasons in charge before surprising everyone with their championship season in 2008.
It’s taken Schmid less time to create a winning atmosphere in Seattle. He won the U.S. Open Cup in 2009 as an expansion team and then continued his mastery over his former team Tuesday by denying the Crew a shot at the treble – the Open Cup, the Supporters’ Shield and the MLS Cup.
A second objective will evaporate Thursday if the LA Galaxy beat the Philadelphia Union, which will mathematically eliminate the Crew from finishing with the most points in the league.
“The big ones are still out there although this (Open Cup) was a huge one,” Burns said. “There’s still a lot to play for. The ultimate goal is the MLS Cup. We never give up. We’re not going to now.”
“We can’t hang our heads very long,” midfielder Brian Carroll said. “We’ve got another game on Friday and the playoffs after that. We have to regroup.”
The Crew play for the fourth time in 10 days on Friday at Chicago and can leap over New York, temporarily at least, to first in the Eastern Conference.
“We are disappointed to lose the final, but we are mentally strong,” head coach Robert Warzycha said.
Columbus have two losses and two ties in their past four league games and are winless in six games in all competitions.
While the Crew’s 13-7-7 record (46 points) is fifth among all teams, the team has suffered a steady decline.
After starting 6-0-2, the Crew’s 26 points since May 29 are seventh-best in the league, one point more than Kansas City and just two better than San Jose and the expansion Union.
Since resumption of play after the World Cup break on June 26 four teams have more points than the Crew’s 25, led by FC Dallas with 34.