In a playoff push where every match is a must-win for the Columbus Crew, the team could not muster a goal in a 1-0 loss to the Seattle Sounders that saw the visitors play with 10 men for 83 minutes.
For the Crew, the man advantage did not lead to much of an on-field advantage, and afterEddie Johnson gave Seattle the lead in the 15th minute, Columbus could not answer.
"Sometimes it's tough to play games like this because you think that when you're a man up, you don't have to work so hard," Columbus head coach Robert Warzycha said in his postgame press conference. "You assume everything is going to be given. Well, you get punished."
Midfielder Justin Meram, who created several opportunities for the Crew but – like so many others on the squad – could not finish, said that the red card didn't give Columbus much of an edge at all.
"They packed it in, and you're kind of pushing for the goal right away, especially after they score," Meram said in the locker room after the match. "So the whole dynamic of the game changes. You're just pushing forward the whole game instead of maybe keeping it and moving side to side. It's not as easy as most people think."
For Warzycha, the lack of goal scoring was a result of poor decision-making, and the coach said that his team should have put the match away multiple times.
"We weren't playing smart," he said. "Everybody wanted to score a goal. That's what usually happens; you play a man up and everybody wants to take a chance, everybody wants to score a goal and doesn't see the play that is probably in a better spot. We had some chances that we could have scored. On these chances, we need to score. It's as simple as that."
Meram said that the players' attempts on goal came not out of selfishness, but from an effort to find the goal the team needed.
"Everyone is trying to help out, but sometimes there's a smarter pass than the shot. I think on a couple of chances if we had made a smarter pass, we could have been successful," he said. "But guys are trying their hardest out there, and I can't give enough credit to the guys for working so hard."
The loss keeps the Crew eight points out of the final Eastern Conference playoff spot, currently occupied by New England, with only eight games remaining. While Warzycha was not ready to say that Columbus' playoff hopes had slipped away with the loss, he summed up the team's feelings after the match.
"This is probably the one that's going to hurt the most,” he said.
“Honestly, being up a man for [83 minutes], we just have to be a little more patient and finish our chances. It's as simple as that.”
Andrew King covers the Columbus Crew for MLSsoccer.com.