It's crunch time for the Columbus Crew.
A stretch of three home matches over a span of eight days begins Wednesday evening with Sporting Kansas City in town. The defending MLS Cup champions pose a large challenge on their own, one that is exacerbated by Jairo Arrieta's injury.
"We're thin," said Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter. "Last week it was the backline, now it's the frontline. We're thin. It's just something you deal with. Teams deal with this on a regular basis and it's something we'll get through. We'll get [Jairo Arrieta] back, Adam [Bedell] came in and scored a goal, [Aaron] Schoenfeld's been scoring in USL – hopefully, one of those [players] can come in and do the job."
Bedell and Schoenfeld are the lone "true striker" options on the Crew's roster right now, but Berhalter did say that starting a slasher such as Justin Meram or Ethan Finlay up top was under consideration. After Bedell's first career MLS goal at New York, he remains the likeliest of options and admits he has changed his mental approach in preparation for the busy stretch ahead.
"For me, mentally it's more of a switch," said Bedell. "You have to be ready to start. Physically, I'm doing the same things that I'd normally do all season, but I think the change is mental. You have to switch on that little bit more to get mentally focused."
Continued Bedell: "I'm a visual guy. Before the game, I like to visualize myself doing good things. For me, that's what it is. I have to be ready to start, and if I don't start, coming off the bench and doing what I've done all season, I'll be ready."
Adding to the Crew's challenge on Wednesday evening is the presence of Sporting's Dom Dwyer, whose 14 MLS goals rank second in the League behind Bradley Wright-Phillips.
"[Dwyer's] great. He [picked up] right where he left off," said Berhalter. "Last year, he had a great ending to the year. He came on after performing with Orlando and built his momentum up. This year, he's right on top of it and scoring all these goals. He's a menace and he's a very good finisher with his left foot. He works; great work rate. He's a good player."
Both sides should be bolstered with the readdition of FIFA World Cup participants: Graham Zusi and Matt Besler for Sporting, as well as Giancarlo Gonzalez and Waylon Francis for the Black & Gold, who are all available for selection. Bedell said that the presence of Besler makes the challenge of breaking down Sporting all the more difficult.
"When you look at SKC, their centerbacks are what stand out to you with [Aurelien] Collin and Besler," said the Michigan native. "Besler did really well in the World Cup and now he's coming back. They’re going to be as strong as ever. When I get in there, it's just being ready to battle and being physical because they love that part of the game. Just keeping my movements crisp and clean, get into the box and try to score a goal."
The bottom line: the Crew is eager to take to the pitch and completely erase the memory of New York, and the entire team is eager to earn three points.
"There's definitely a concentration, there's a focus from the group," said Bedell "We understand the New York game wasn't good and wasn't near what we can produce. We're focusing on [Wednesday] and everyone has a good focus going in."