Though the Crew were eliminated from the 2012 MLS Cup Playoff picture with Saturday's 3-2 road loss to D.C. United, there were a few positives to draw on from the weekend:
1. FIGHTING UNTIL THE END
Pressing for the the winner in stoppage-time, the Crew left itself vulnerable to counter attack when it ultimately conceded the match-winner from D.C. United's Lewis Neal. Still, the Black & Gold showed the fight in all 90 minutes that they've shown all season, leaving it all on the field at RFK Stadium.
"I am very proud of the way the guys fought today," Eddie Gaven said after the match. "I thought the team fought their heart out and played with so much effort, fight, and spirit but sometimes despite all that you still don’t win and that happened to us tonight. If we can take one positive from this game is how hard we fought.”
Added goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum, "It was a tough battle. The guys fought hard and created chances but at the end we couldn’t hold on.”
2. GOLDEN BOOT RACE
With Gaven and Jairo Arrieta each tallying for the Black & Gold on Saturday night, both players are tied for the club's scoring lead with nine goals a-piece heading into next week's season finale against Toronto FC.
Gaven's tally marked a new career-high for the 10-year MLS veteran. The midfielder's previous high of eight goals came in 2005, his final season with the New York/New Jersey MetroStars.
A midseason acquisition, Arrieta's strike gives him nine goals in just 17 matches with the Crew in 2012. The Costa Rican owns the highest goals per 90 minutes average on the Black & Gold, scoring at a 0.56 clip.
3. RESERVE LEAGUE CHAMPIONS
If there was any bright spot to the weekend in the Nation's Capital, it was the Crew securing its second-straight Reserve League crown on Sunday. Dilly Duka and Ethan Finlay hit the net in the victory, while captain Eric Gehrig anchored the Black & Gold's defense in the shutout.
Sunday was also the first game action of 2012 for second-year player Rich Balchan. The promising young utility player went the full 90 minutes for the first time since October 27, 2011 in the Crew's playoff loss in Colorado. A full offseason of training at 100-percent fitness will surely lead to a strong 2013 for Balchan.