It's been a challenge for the Crew ever since the week began: recovering from what was admittedly a shock defeat. Earlier in the week, Sporting Director and Gregg Berhalter admitted that his team wasn't having the easiest time erasing the disappointment from their minds.
However, as the week has progressed, the Crew boss has said that his team has become sharper in its preparation. As the weekend draws near, the Black & Gold are ready to head to New England and attempt to achieve what would be a historic comeback.
"We were all stunned by the result, coaches included," said Berhalter. "You have a terrible feeling. It's a bad feeling that you have. How do you change that feeling from negative to positive, in terms of fueling you for the next game? There's a fine line. You have such a bad feeling. You had such expectations for that first game, and you didn't meet those expectations. It's a lot of disappointment."
So what changed for the Crew in its preparation?
"I think it's dealing with the loss – actually accepting what it was," said Berhalter. "Being able to process what you just went through: why it happened, how it happened and internalize it, say 'Here's what happened, let's not hide from this.' Disappointment is normal, it's natural. Of course you're not going to be happy with that type of result, but there it is. Now we move forward from that."
The Black & Gold are bidding to become just the third team in MLS history to overcome a two-goal deficit after the first leg of a two-legged Playoff series. The last time came in 2004, when the then-Kansas City Wizards lost the first leg to the San Jose Earthquakes 2-0, but came back to win the series 3-2 on aggregate. It also happened in the 2003 West Semifinals, when San Jose defeated Los Angeles 5-4 on aggregate after a 0-2 first leg result.
If the Crew are to become the third, what has to change on Sunday?
"We can improve on everything," said Michael Parkhurst. "Luckily, we scored a couple goals, so we've given ourselves a chance, but it's going to take a perfect game. That's the situation that we've put ourselves in. By no means do we think that we are out of it, but we also know that it is a huge task in front of us. We'll be ready to give it our full effort.”
"We watched a little bit of the tape and we are going to have to go for it," added Wil Trapp. "We're going to obviously have to win by three goals or more. It is going to be a challenge, but a lot of heart, a lot of belief and a lot of faith [this week] preparing for this game.”
The dynamics of the two-legged series are a continually evolving exercise in game theory. Does the Crew get more aggressive early on in the match? Does New England respond by playing more defensively than they are accustomed to doing? Who adjusts their game more? How does that affect the flow of the match? You could go on for days with surmising how each team might play given the existing scoreline, which makes the format of the Playoffs all the more interesting.
Parkhurst, however, does not believe that New England will alter its game that much, unless a fast start by the Crew forces it.
"I think that maybe they play a little safer as far as numbers that they throw forward, but we definitely expect them to come out of the gates similar to how they started last game," said the Crew Captain. "I think things might change if we score a goal or two, then maybe the go into a shell and get defensive, but the onus is on us to make that happen.”