At times during the Crew's 2-1 defeat to the New England Revolution, it was hard to believe the Black & Gold didn't have upwards of four goals.
With chances being created left and right, the Black & Gold certainly could have made a case for more than just one tally on Saturday. Reflecting on the match, after all that seemingly went wrong for the Crew (including the exceptional play of Revs 'keeper Bobby Shuttleworth), Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter chose to take that fact away from the contest.
"If you look at the manner of how we approached the game in terms of wanting to come here and wanting to win, no matter how good New England is at home, creating a number of 100% goal chances, that you can take from the game," said the Crew boss. "What I would say is that I take responsibility for the conduct on the field – that's not us. We don't want to project that. We want to play soccer and get on with it no matter what the decisions of the referee are. Whether we agree or disagree with them, we have to keep playing.
"It wasn't our best performance, but having said that, there's plenty of chances to score four or five goals. That, to me, is really positive. As we get stronger in the next game, we're going to be fine."
The conduct Berhalter is referring to, of course, is bookings to Waylon Francis and Federico Higuain that will keep them each out of next Saturday's match at Philadelphia. The Crew will try to carry over the chance creation into that match, but replacing two key cogs will be a challenge for the Black & Gold.
Berhalter, however, is confident in his side's depth.
"Another guy steps in. That's what it's about," said Berhalter. "This time of year, you need guys to step up. We've been doing it all year and we'll do it next Saturday. There was a team out there that wanted to play soccer, wanted to attack and wanted to score no matter where they were playing. I'm proud of that."
The Crew wasn't shy about going for the win tonight, bringing on Hector Jimenez for Eric Gehrig at halftime in a clear statement of attacking intent. Throughout the week of training, Berhalter insisted that was how he was approaching this key road trip: go for the three points in each clash. While the Black & Gold didn't achieve that goal tonight, from the get go, they showed the attacking mettle necessary for matches with these implications. The playoffs are still very much in reach, particularly if the club can learn from what didn't go right tonight and carry over what did.
"We had our chances … we missed a couple of chances right away and within 30 seconds to a minute they scored," said Justin Meram. "That's the way the game goes. You miss by an inch and it'll come back to haunt you. It was a fair game. Both teams had their chances and they just finished theirs off."
"If we're getting chances like that, we're going to be happy with those," added Wil Trapp. "It's the parts in between those chances that we need to clean up. I think [Berhalter] was happy with that side of things, but the rest wasn't up to snuff."
At the end of the day, consider this: the match was a "playoff atmosphere," as Berhalter said, and although the Crew came up a tad short, the experience will only serve it well headed into a similar atmosphere in Philadelphia next weekend. Without Higuain and Francis, the contest at PPL Park should be a compelling test of the Crew's fortitude.