Over the next three weeks, MLSsoccer.com will take a look back at the 2012 season that was for all 19 clubs in Major League Soccer, starting with Toronto FC and ending with the Supporters' Shield-winning San Jose Earthquakes. You can find the schedule and comprehensive reviews for each team here.
2012 record: 15-12-7 (52 points); 44 GF / 44 GA (0 GD)
The Columbus Crew missed the playoffs for the first time in five seasons by finishing one point back of fifth-place Houston in the Eastern Conference.
That the Dynamo reached the MLS Cup before losing the title match to LA is a sign to Crew coach Robert Warzycha that his team is not far from being a contender for the league's most coveted prize.
Yet, it was a season of frustration and sorrow.
There can be no mention of 2012 without starting with the unexpected death of rookie midfielder Kirk Urso on the morning of Aug. 5 due to an undetected heart irregularity.
The Crew postponed their Aug. 11 home match against Toronto FC to attend his funeral in Illinois, then somehow regrouped to play inspiringly over the next three weeks.
Coinciding with the pairing of late additions Jairo Arrieta and Designated Player Federico Higuaín, they reeled off two ties followed by four wins to put themselves in a prime spot to make the postseason, but losing all four road games down the stretch squashed any hope as the Crew ended 15-12-7.
Warzycha recently talked to MLSsoccer.com about the season and what is in store for 2013.
MLSsoccer.com: What defines a successful season for you, and was 2012 one?
Warzycha: A successful season for me is defined in several ways. Obviously one is winning the MLS Cup. The other thing is bringing young players into the first team, that can be very successful. Having a good record is successful. Playing attacking soccer, like we did, is successful.
But to define a successful season we need to qualify for the playoffs and we didn't, so even though we had a lot of points, that was disappointing.
MLSsoccer.com: The biggest positives from the season?
Warzycha: If you look at the games from last year and the roster and this year's roster, a lot of guys made names for themselves.
The team looks completely different. It looks much better offensively. Going into next season you do have the feeling that we have the players who can score goals and will score goals because of who they are and how they play.
Last year we were wondering, "Who is going to play with this guy, and who is going to play with that guy?"
It's very positive that we searched other countries for players [Higuaín and Arrieta], and they are going to be the players we thought they could be.
MLSsoccer.com: What were the main disappointments?
Warzycha: The beginning of the season was obviously more difficult than the end of the season because we were 2-4-2. We did not have a good start and that hurt us a lot. If you look at the first few games and the injuries we had, we were a completely different team.
For me, the biggest disappointment was not winning the big games at the end even though we did things right because we went into them with a good attitude.
The games against New York, D.C., and Chicago, we had the right attitude. We scored first and played to win. Maybe next year it will be different and we win those games.
MLSsoccer.com: In what areas does the team need improvement?
Warzycha: The team needs to improve the overall communication. We need to have voices on the field that are positive and correcting the things that are happening on the field, not voices that are making people nervous.
MLSsoccer.com: How close are you to being a championship team?
Warzycha: This league has parity. Do you think San Jose had a championship team this year? Absolutely, and they didn't qualify for the championship game. You never know.
I will say one thing. We were very, very consistent. We did not lose three games in a row. We lost two, but we'd bounce back. That's because we have a good mentality.
Consistency is a good indication what kind of team you are. It was only one game [out of the playoffs] and we would have been better than most teams. We were probably one game away from being a championship team.