After back-to-back wins restored a sliver of playoff hope to Columbus, that hope took a hit Saturday night with a 4-0 loss on the road to Supporters' Shield leader Real Salt Lake.
The Claret and Cobalt's first tally came off a deflected free kick from the foot of Javier Morales and off Kyle Beckerman just before the halftime whistle. Devon Sandoval added another six minutes into the second half, while Luis Gil and Beckerman each tacked-on a goal within the final 10 minutes of the match to down the visiting Black & Gold.
"I think [Real Salt Lake] proved tonight why they're in first place, they're a good team," defender Josh Williams said after the loss. "We didn't really get on the ball, possession-wise. We just couldn't keep track of them. It seemed like their guys were running all over the place, they're a very offensive team.
"I just don't think we matched the intensity. We just got totally out-played."
The Crew still remains seven points out of a playoff position, unable to take advantage of the Houston Dynamo's 5-0 loss to the Montreal Impact with nine matches left to play in the 2013 Regular Season.
Making things more difficult, the Crew's Captain and playmaker, Federico Higuaín, received his fifth yellow card of the season during the first half of the loss to result in a one-match suspension. Higuaín's suspension could be longer than one match after he was sent off with a second yellow near the end of Saturday's match.
The Black & Gold will have to move on without their co-leading scorer as they welcome the Seattle Sounders and Houston Dynamo to Crew Stadium next week.
"We have two games coming up at home, it's a big loss to us," Head Coach Robert Warzycha admitted. "[Higuaín] is our engine. He's scoring goals.
"It's a big loss for us."