Following a comeback road draw in a mid-week match at Chicago, head coach Caleb Porter said that as disappointed as the team was with a sole point, it was an improvement and a sign of a shift in the right direction.
Now, after Saturday's 2-1 win over Montreal at MAPFRE Stadium, that shift continued to show signs of development.
"Three games ago we, we all had a good talk and we talked about the last 14 games, how our mentality was going to be different," Porter mentioned following Saturday's win.
"We’re just going to take control of our season and we’re going to focus on improvement, we’re going to focus on, obviously, better performances as well," Porter continued. "And to the guys' credit the last three games, even though we lost the Orlando [City SC] game, I thought we played really well, and I thought it was different, the mentality from start to finish and then obviously, last game was different the way we battled back twice and today again."
Of course, the recent return of cornerstone leaders like Gyasi Zardes and Wil Trapp has helped. Zardes tallied his team-leading seventh goal of the season on Wednesday in Bridgeview while Trapp tallied his second assist of the season from a set-piece ball to Josh Williams.
Having said that, a lesson Crew followers have witnessed this season - and something Porter has continued to emphasize - is that mentality shifts, just like those in playing styles, take time to evolve.
And as they do, they sometimes come with unexpected folds.
"Again, a big part of the last three games and [why] our performances have improved, [is] we’ve got key guys back. Let’s be honest about that," Porter said. "But also, here's what I'll say: I thought Luis Argudo over the last three games was one of the best players on the field in terms of what he brought - the energy, the fight. So, here's a guy that's not been known as a top player on our team and he’s emerged as a guy that is really capable of helping us win games and get the job done. So, it’s coming."
As supporters expect top-quality play from established veterans, Crew fans have also come to witness others stepping up to fill the void, and in the process showing 1) improvement through the roster and 2) a strengthened mentality.
Of course, Saturday's win is just one result and the Club, as Porter said, has its work cut out. But looking back at the past three matches, positive signs are beginning to show.
"Each game is another brick in the wall, and this is another couple bricks in the wall," Porter said. "We’re slowly building it. I’m just glad they finally got rewarded with a result because that’s important and our confidence will build."
Now, standing fifth in the Eastern Conference are the New York Red Bulls, who await the Crew next weekend for a match in Harrison, N.J. With that, it's another opportunity to take a step in the right direction against one of the team's most familiar playoff rivals over the past few seasons.
"Like I said, we got to keep our highs low a little bit here," Porter reiterated, "because we're digging ourselves out of a massive hole and we got to fight every game like we did the last three."
Following the conclusion of the team's fourth three-match, eight-day this season, the Crew return to a sense of normalcy and a one-match weekly schedule through Aug. 17, before a mid-week Wednesday match at New York City FC on Aug. 21.
Kickoff vs. the New York Red Bulls is slated for 7:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, July 27 at Red Bull Arena. Supporters can watch the match on FOX Sports Ohio, stream on FOX Sports GO, or listen on 97.1 FM The Fan or www.ColumbusCrewSC.com (English & Spanish).