From the opening seconds of their 2-1 defeat to the New York Red Bulls, Columbus Crew SC didn't look like themselves.
Accustomed to dominance in possession and a plethora of chances, Columbus was frustrated by New York, and multiple mental lapses punctuated an overall disjointed performance for Crew SC. What was missing for Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter? He didn't even know where to begin.
"I would look at it more as, 'What was there?' because that's how much was missing," Berhalter said after the match. "We talk about our movements off the ball, we talk about positionings, none of that was there. None of that was in place."
And ultimately, Berhalter condemned his team's ability to deal with New York's up-tempo pressuring, which they should have expected.
"First of all, let's give a lot of credit to Red Bull, because they talked it before the game and then they did it in the game, that's the difference right there," he said. "We talked it, but we didn't back it up. They talked about pressing us and we knew they were going to press us, but it was still effective."
Captain Michael Parkhurst said the two "soft goals" that came from Columbus turnovers were "disappointing," and that he has a higher standard for his own play.
"You don't expect to make mistakes like that, and it cost the team tonight," Parkhurst said. "You move on. It happens, and hopefully those are few and far between."
For goalkeeper Steve Clark, the loss was a wake-up call. After receiving heaps of praise in the offseason and touting their playing style and depth, Crew SC's play hasn't matched up to its billing.
"It's a time when we need to be like, 'All right, let's go,'" Clark said. "It's time to realize that teams are really coming with good gameplans, but we can play through that. We need to stick to our plans and continue working. We're three games in. We need to continue to develop."
Despite calling the result "exactly what it should have been," in Saturday's game and staring at a 1-2-0 record to start the season, Berhalter isn't seeing a trend.
"I'm looking at this one game and saying it was a bad performance; I'll stand by that," he said. "But the first two games, for me, were good performances."
And in his predictably competitive nature, Clark is already looking forward to payback.
"Overall we just need to be back to our gameplan," Clark said. "We want to be a team that plays through pressure. So that's fine; credit to New York. But we're looking forward to the next time we play them."
Andrew King covers Columbus Crew SC for MLSsoccer.com.