Saturday's 4-1 loss to the New York Red Bulls at Crew Stadium wasn't pretty by any means, but here are three positives the Black & Gold can take into next week's match against Philadelphia:
1. HALFTIME ADJUSTMENTS
There is no question the first half of Saturday's match didn't go the way the Crew had planned, giving up two goals to Kenny Cooper within the first 13 minutes and another to Thierry Henry just before halftime.
However, the second half was a different story. Columbus emerged from the locker room looking like a different team altogether, creating numerous chances at goal that weren't available in the previous half.
"The second half is a pretty good description of what we wanted to do: put pressure on the ball, pressure on the players, don't give them the time to possess the ball," Crew head coach Robert Warzycha said after the game.
The Crew had six shots on target in the second half compared to just two in the first. Unfortunately for the Black & Gold, rookie goalkeeper Ryan Meara was outstanding all afternoon between the posts for New York.
Surprisingly, after scoring two goals and assisting on another, all Red Bulls forward Thierry Henry could talk about after the game was how disappointed he was with the second half.
"I'm not scared to say it, (Columbus) should have come back into the game," the Frenchman said. "If they put the ball in the back of the net, it could have been 3-3."
The Crew showed they can play with the top teams in Major League Soccer like it did in the second half against New York. Now the Black & Gold needs to figure out how to play that way for 90 minutes.
2. DUKA AND FINLAY PROVIDE SPARK
Much of the aforementioned second half effort was supplied by Dilly Duka and Ethan Finlay coming off the bench for the Crew. The Black & Gold's attack had been stagnant all afternoon before Finlay and Duka came on as substitutes in the 55th and 57th minutes, respectively.
The two wingers combined to create quality chances for themselves along with Emilio Renteria and Olman Vargas in front of them.
"(Duka) came on very strong, and Ethan also,” Warzycha said of his substitutes. “(Finlay) had one chance to score a goal and he created another one with a slide tackle to get it to Emilio (Renteria). I think they did a lot.”
Duka's performance could mean he's earned his way back into Warzycha's starting XI after injuring his hamstring on March 10 in Colorado.
3. MARSHALL SCORES FIRST SET-PIECE GOAL IN 2012
The Crew's lone goal came in the 89th minute when rookie Kirk Urso and Chad Marshall connected on a corner kick. The tally marked the first set-piece goal for the Black & Gold in 2012 after scoring only one from a dead ball in 2011.
The goal was Marshall's 16th goal in all competitions for his career and Urso's first career assist, earning the North Carolina product Barbasol Man of the Match honors as voted on by the fans.