Buoyed by the return of several players and with a modest two-game unbeaten streak, the Columbus Crew flew to San Jose on Thursday vowing to change their luck in the Pacific time zone in the next two matches. The Crew play the Earthquakes on Saturday (10:30 pm ET, watch LIVE online) and at Seattle on May 23 carrying the baggage of a 2-7-6 record on the West Coast since 2009.
Or, maybe not.
“I think it’s a locker-room thing,” midfielder Dilly Duka (above) said. “This locker room is different just because we have a lot of young guys. They don’t really think about it. They just go out and play.”
Confidence is building after the Crew forged a 0-0 tie at Portland on May 5 and beat FC Dallas 2-1 at home last week.
Duka, forward Olman Vargas and defender Carlos Mendes missed those games because of injuries but all three made the trip. Stalwart defender Chad Marshall, however, will miss his third straight match because of a concussion.
Traveling across the country is never easy, and the fact that the Western Conference has been dominant – the current top three points leaders are all in the West (with New York tied for third with Seattle) – has contributed to the Crew’s poor showing over the past four seasons.
They have allowed three or more goals in four of the 15 West Coast games while scoring more than once only three times.
“Sometimes when people inform you that you haven’t done well it gets in your head,” midfielder Chris Birchall said. “Maybe Dilly’s right. The younger guys, it may be good they’re inexperienced at that and just go out there without fear and just play.”
Formidable opponents in hostile environments aren’t the only reasons why the Crew have struggled on the West coast.
“We’re playing 11 o’clock Columbus time,” coach Robert Warzycha said of the three-hour time difference. “That’s why we’re going two days before to get acclimated a little bit.”
Fortunately for the Crew, they can take solace in that the rest of their road games for the season are either in the Eastern or Central time zones.
Midfielder Danny O’Rourke, however, is approaching the West Coast swing with a different outlook.
“Those are two hard teams and you always want to play good teams,” O’Rourke said. “We want to measure where our team is right now.”