While the Black & Gold were understandably disappointed following the final whistle of Sunday's second leg in Foxborough, it's also hard to deny another emotion emanating from the thoughts of players and coaches alike: optimism.
In the end, it's hard not to be when you consider the body of work the Black & Gold put in over the final few months of the regular season. The Eastern Conference Semifinal defeat to the Revolution doesn't erase the excitement and the growth that the Crew displayed right before our very eyes down the stretch. That's something that the club can hang its hat on to help in the wake of the disappointment.
"I like how the team developed, and we're going to keep getting better," said Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter. "There has to be commitment in the offseason to improve and we'll add some pieces. The players will put in the work and we'll come back a better team than we were this year."
Midfielder Wil Trapp even went as far to say that this defeat will help the Black & Gold next season and beyond.
"We'll definitely use this as a learning experience," said Trapp. "It's huge experience in terms of how momentous and how big these games are, of what it takes to win them and how easily you can lose them."
Berhalter and the team acknowledged that the Crew came out with the jump it needed, but ultimately conceding first cost them in the end.
"I'm happy with the effort, extremely happy," said Berhalter. "In the first half, we came out lively, put them on their heels, created a lot of chances. It was unfortunate to not get that goal, but I think that giving up a goal in that time period really took a lot out of us."
"We put ourselves in a tough spot," said defender Eric Gehrig. "We wanted to come out, generate numbers forward and create some chances. I thought that in the first half, we did that. We had a couple of chances there, two or three decent looks. When you're in that big of a hole, you have to finish one of those to give yourself a chance. Unfortunately, we couldn't find the net early on there and they were able to get one before half. That pretty much sealed it."
Understandably, no one in the Crew dressing room is satisfied with how the season played out. That's a positive display of hunger with the realization that this club progressed -- on the off the field -- by an incredibly large margin in 2014.
"[Berhalter] is proud of what we did, but not satisfied with ending it here," said Trapp. "I think we had higher hopes than crashing out in the first round of the Playoffs. Over two legs, they were better than us and that's why they got the win."
"I don't think a lot of people expected a lot from us this year," added Gehrig. "We gave the League a lot of good memories of this group for the 2014 season. We had some great wins, scored some great goals. At the end of the day, we played some of the best soccer in the League. For that to happen so quickly after the coaching turnover and the new system, that speaks volumes of everyone in this group. It's a good initial season for us.
"We learned from today and the future's bright."