Make no mistake about it: it's better to be on a winning streak than a losing streak. No one is debating that. But what is up for debate is what those runs mean in the context of a season. Just ask Crew Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter, whose club is on a two-match winning streak but continues to take it match-by-match.
"In MLS, the difference between winning and losing is very small," said the Crew boss. "It's such a small margin. At the end of the day, you start looking at these results – you guys like to classify the runs and things like that, but there's not much difference in these games. The Colorado game, you can argue we should have won it. Kansas City, we shouldn't have lost it. But now it's a tie and it's a loss. That's just how it goes in MLS."
Instead, Berhalter continues to emphasize the process of building a winning club, choosing to fixate on consistency and effort match-in and match-out.
"What we focus on is the performance and getting some predictability out of what the guys are bringing every week out of their performance, that we're not guessing what's going to happen in the game. That's most important.
"You want to put yourself in position to win, and then once you're in that position you want to actually do it. That's what's been important these last couple of games."
Undoubtedly, Berhalter's side is starting to deliver more consistent and predictable performances on an individual level as well as on a team level. Wins have started to follow. With consecutive victories over Montreal and New England, the Crew now looks to make it three in a row against Chicago on Saturday (8:30 p.m. ET / Time Warner Cable SportsChannel). After last Saturday's win over the Revs, the Black & Gold vaulted from seventh to fourth place in the Eastern Conference – a jump that Berhalter said is a prime example of how MLS can be. No matter if a club is on a losing streak or a winning streak, it doesn't take much to turn fortunes around.
"If you talk about the stretches ... the one win in however many games, the guys have been plugging along. I've been pleased with that. New England [lost] eight games in a row and they're still right in the playoff picture. Think about that. This is our League. You have to accept that. There are highs and lows; you have to try to stay level-headed. If you can play good soccer and you can replicate that, you're always going to have a chance."
The Crew has played Chicago twice this season, once in MLS action and once at Toyota Park in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. This is set to be the final meeting between the longtime rivals in 2014, a series that has produced memorable moments and two wide-open matches this year.
"I do remember the game at home here against them, where we beat them 2-0. They were exposed a lot defensively," said forward Adam Bedell. "There were big gaps that we could play behind and in front of. We need to exploit that again.
"The Open Cup game was crazy. It was all over the place. As long as we stay compact defensively, we should be fine, and then if we do the things we like to do offensively, we'll be okay."
Berhalter agrees that the key for his side on Saturday might be exploiting the space that Bedell mentioned.
"I think that [the Fire] made some good adjustments in the Open Cup game. It's going to be a tough game. They have a good attacking group, and for us it's going to be a question of if we can keep the ball and wait for that space. It's not always going to be there, but when it is, can we look to make some moves to get some chances."