OBETZ, Ohio – The Crew have been a .500 team for four months, but the games in March and April carry equal weight to those in September and October.
Consecutive blowout defeats at Los Angeles (3-1) and home to Seattle (4-0) have ruined almost any chance of an unprecedented third Straight Supporters’ Shield, but Columbus still hold a three-point lead over second-place New York in the Eastern Conference.
The Crew are thankful they got off to a 6-0-2 start and built a cushion over the Red Bulls.
“We’ve put ourselves in such a good spot throughout the season that a loss Saturday [to Seattle] is just water off the duck’s back,” midfielder Duncan Oughton said. “No one’s discouraged. It happens and we’re moving on.”
The Crew (13-7-5) play at New England (7-14-4) on Saturday and a win could clinch a postseason berth for the third straight year if FC Dallas beat Kansas City and Chicago defeat Seattle.
Although Columbus are 7-7-3 since May 23, they still have the third-most points in the league.
“Are we only going to count the points from half a season or all season?” coach Robert Warzycha said. “The most important thing for us is to be in front of New York and be in first place in the conference.”
In the past five games, the Crew have a pair of wins, a tie and the two losses in which they allowed an uncharacteristic seven goals.
“We pride ourselves on defending and not allowing chances, much less goals,” goalkeeper William Hesmer said. “The past few games have been rough but we’re not going to throw away all the other success we’ve had this year.”
Defender Andy Iro said the defensive mistakes the past two games were “embarrassing for myself and for our team.”
He was encouraged by Tuesday’s 1-0 win over Santos Laguna of Mexico in the CONCACAF Champions League.
“We’ve got to get back to basics and we did a good job of that on Tuesday,” he said. “We’ve got to carry that on. All is not lost because of a couple of bad results.”
That attitude even has the players believing winning the Supporters’ Shield is possible.
“I don’t think it’s out of the question but right now priority one is, ‘Let’s take it one game at a time and let the three points build off each other,’” Hesmer said.
Columbus could earn their second consecutive trip to the Champions League quarterfinals with a tie at Municipal of Guatemala on Tuesday and face the defending US Open Cup champion Sounders in the title game Oct. 5 in Seattle. Iro said the team is too busy to dwell on its losses.
“We’re still good standing in the points [in MLS]. We’re in the Open Cup final. We’re doing well in the CONCACAF,” he said. “There’s no reason to get too down on ourselves.”